As the Copa América Centenario rolls on, Orlando has played host to match-ups between Costa Rica and Paraguay as well as Panama and Bolivia. Despite the fact that these may be perceived as less than marquee match-ups internationally with the biggest names in the matches being Arsenal's Joel Campbell (Costa Rica), Seattle Sounders' Nelson Valdez (Paraguay), and Vancouver's Blas Pérez (Panama). No offense to any of those players, but, they're not Lionel Messi, James Rodríguez, Chicharito or Luis Suárez. Although, I would pay to see any of them before I ever pay to go see Michael Bradley again.
Despite the lack of star power, how has Orlando done as far as coming out and supporting international soccer being played in the City Beautiful when A) the USMNT isn't playing and B) no Orlando City players are representing their countries in any matches being held here? Well, it's pretty, hmm ... satisfactory? Adequate? What's the word for where it's not awful but could absolutely be better? Doesn't matter, it's that.
On Saturday afternoon, 17,113 (originally announced as 14,334 due to what was called "internal miscommunication") people showed up to a nil-nil draw between Costa Rica and Paraguay. Which, if we're being honest about numbers, is a bigger announced crowd than any of the Orlando Pride's home games outside of their home opener, where they set an NWSL attendance record.
Additionally, 13,466 showed up to last night's Panama/Bolivia game, despite the outer bands of Tropical Storm Colin dumping rain down on the area, for a match featuring two teams that probably wont make it out of a Group D. That group features last year's champions, Chile, which features Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez, as well as Argentina, which has the actual best player in the world, Messi.
So, after two matches in Orlando, we see something of an uphill battle. Let's see how other matches played in MLS cities fared attendance wise.
Haiti lost a heartbreaker to Peru, 1-0, in Seattle, thanks to a missed header in stoppage time. The official attendance of the prime time match on Saturday night was 20,190. A slightly larger crowd of 25,560 showed up to the Jamaica-Venezuela match that saw the only goal scored by Venezuela's Josef Martínez. It's worth noting that the game was played at Soldier Field and not Toyota Park, but that may have helped, seeing as how that number is about 10,000 more than the Chicago Fire's average attendance -- and it's not out in Bridgeview.
Finally, looking at the Brazil-Ecuador match that resulted in another scoreless draw, but not without some controversy, as Miller Bolaños' goal was disallowed as the linesman adjudged the ball to be out of play before his shot made a bounce off of Brazil keeper Alisson's chest and across the goal line. An announced attendance of 53,158 came out to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
So, ultimately, Orlando has had some of the smaller crowds, but a trade-off of countries that lack star power and teams that casual attendees may not be familiar with has certainly hurt attendance, as did the weather last night. The U.S. vs. Colombia sold out Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara and Mexico vs. Uruguay had over 60,000 in Phoenix.
While the smaller matches may have sparser attendance, the marquee match-ups have shown to be well attended. With Brazil coming in to Orlando tomorrow to square off with Haiti and former Orlando City Soccer Club forward Jean Alexandre, the match should be well attended.