What a year it’s been at MAPFRE Stadium. America’s first soccer-specific stadium set a number of attendance records this year, as Crew SC supporters pushed the Black & Gold all the way to hosting the MLS Cup in Columbus.
The excitement in and around the Capital City during Crew SC’s playoff run was something that didn’t go unnoticed by players and coaches.
“What I experienced this last month in this city was special and we want to keep that going,” Sporting Director & Head Coach Gregg Berhalter says. “The support that I have seen was remarkable.”
Including the postseason and MLS Cup, Crew SC sold out seven matches this year for a new club record. 21,617 supporters, the largest-ever postseason crowd in Crew SC history, watched the First Leg of the Eastern Conference Championship against the New York Red Bulls.
The three consecutive sellouts from August 22 against Sporting Kansas City through September 26 versus the Portland Timbers marked an all-time venue record as well; and the attendance of 22,719 against the Timbers was the largest since the stage at the north end of the stadium was constructed prior to the 2008 season.
“The support was fantastic,” Captain Michael Parkhurst says. “Our attendance numbers show that fans were out more than they were last year. Especially the support that we got at the end of the year when we started to make a run and make the playoffs, every game was a fantastic atmosphere at home.”
The defender says his team got a huge lift from its supporters whenever it needed one and goalkeeper Steve Clark stressed the supporters rose to the occasion particularly during the playoffs.
“They have been great all year. You especially see how good the atmosphere was Sunday,” he says. “We’re looking forward to continuing to entertain.”
Midfielder Justin Meram said his fifth season with Crew SC was unlike anything he has experienced so far.
“It’s come a long a way. It’s come so far, this honestly isn’t the same club that I started with,” he says. “Everything has changed for the better. I’ve seen the growth of the fans over the last couple of years. Their dedication to this club is out of this league. This playoff run was special and it’s going to stay with me for a long time. The whole community rallied around us and helped us with this push.”
For midfielder and Vice Captain Wil Trapp that change began with the rebrand last year and was fueled by his team’s performance on the pitch.
“The tip of the iceberg was the rebrand, cultivating relevancy within the young, passionate fan base here in Columbus. Making it to the MLS Cup and hosting the MLS Cup only adds to that.”
With that kind of success comes a whole new set of expectations, and the Black & Gold are eager to meet them.
“There’s major disappointment when we don’t win MLS Cup. That’s a little different from when we got here,” Clark says. “I think the expectations are different. The level of play will rise with that. I think that the fans have risen to the occasion as well as we have. It’s exciting times ahead.”