The MLS, although a great distance from the European scene both geographically and in stature, has been on the rise on the global scene in recent years. From the days of David Beckham joining LA Galaxy back in 2007, to the likes of Gonzalo Higuain now captaining Beckham’s own Inter Miami club after capturing 14 major trophies in Europe - the MLS now boasts a healthy and growing worldwide audience.
The Top 5 Most Popular MLS Teams
- LA Galaxy
- Atlanta United
- New York City FC
- Seattle Sounders
- Inter Miami
We have chosen this top 5 list of most popular MLS teams based on a range of data including, social media followers, stadium capacity, and the average attendances achieved during the 2019 MLS season. Read on for charts and tables to find out where your team ranks on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and average attendances with charts and tables of everything you need to know to decide the most popular MLS teams.
Here, we take a look at the most supported teams in the American top soccer league both in-person and on Social media.
|By Stadium Capacity
|By Average Attendance
|By Facebook Fans
|New York City FC
|New York City Red Bulls
|By Instagram Fans
|New York City FC
|By Twitter Fans
|By Total Social Followers
|New York City FC
The most popular teams in the MLS
Read on for information of where your team in the MLS sit in popularity based on a range of factors including individual social media platforms, stadium capacity and the average game day attendances in 2019
1. LA Galaxy
Needless to say that following on from Beckham’s five-year stay in the MLS that the Galaxy are the most supported team in the country. Add onto this the Los Angeles sunshine for every home game, their record five MLS Cup titles, and you get a mega institution for fans abroad and in the MLS to follow.
What’s more, the club are one of the league's 10 charter members following on helping the MLS get going back in 1996. The likes of Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robbie Keane, and many more have all headed to California to play for the club since, and to this day, the Galaxy remain the top franchise from a popularity perspective in the MLS.
In 2019, Forbes also registered the club as the second most valuable MLS franchise at around $480 million behind Atalanta United. What also needs to be added into the equation is Landon Donovan, who is easily America's most famous soccer player ever. He is the club's all-time leading scorer with 113 goals and every time his face is spotted on the American soccer scene, his time with the Galaxy gets noted.
2. Atlanta United
Competing in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta United FC was founded in 2014, they became the 22nd MLS team in 2017 in the expansion. they play at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which they share with the Falcons in the NFL.
They were the first team in the MLS to have an official matchday attendance of Over 70,000, after selling the most tickets for a single game, to take the record held by LA Galaxy. Questionably, they sold one more ticket than the 69,255 record held by the LA outfit.
The Most Game Day Supported Team in the MLS
Atlanta United hold the record for the highest seasonal average home game attendances in the MLS with 43,965 fans per game in the 2019 season
As of March 7, 2020, Atlanta United currently holds the top ten single-game regular-season attendance records in MLS.
3. New York City FC
Despite only being in the competition for six years and having to battle with the already-established Red Bulls, NYCFC have rapidly become one of the most-watched MLS sides out there and one of the most notable in the global scale. What has made the Pigeons’ rise up the popularity scale even more impressive is how they were the 20th team to enter the MLS when they did so back in 2015.
Much of this growth came from their recent MLS triumph in 2021 when the MLS was reaching some of its highest viewing figures of all time. Moreover, NYCFC did it right when they first got going in the MLS. In contrast to the likes of Atalanta United who invested heavily in upcoming South American talent for cheap through exceptional scouting, the New York outfit headed for Europe.
Frank Lampard, Andre Pirlo, and former Barcelona star, David Villa were all part of the first phase of establishing themselves as a force in the MLS, and fast forward to 2022, it clearly worked.
It also helps being a partner club of Premier League giants, Manchester City, and playing at the New York Yankees’ historic Yankee Stadium. All of this has conjured up, without question, the fastest growth of an MLS side ever witnessed on the global scale.
4. Seattle Sounders
With a combination of on-field success and a huge following in America, the Seattle Sounders remain one of the top outfits in the MLS Western Conference each year and the most supported side out west behind the Galaxy.
Quite stunningly, the Sounders have never finished lower than fourth in the Western Conference since their debut season in the MLS back in 2009 as they have finished second in the division for the last five seasons. Combine this with the generational talents of MLS stars like Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Jordan Morris, and their all-time top scorer, Fredy Montero, and the Seattle outfit can proudly put themselves up there as perhaps the best MLS side of the 2010s which also brought in two MLS Cups (2016, 2019) and three U.S Open titles (2010, 2011, 2014).
The Sounders also averaged attendances between 40,000-43,000 in each of the past five seasons where they finished second, except from the 2021 campaign where attendances were halved because of the pandemic, but even then, the club still averaged 22,150.
Seattle Sounders are as Popular as Chelsea!
Both the Seattle Sounders and the EPL's Chelsea averaged around 40,000 fans per game during 2018/19
To make matters more impressive for the four-time U.S Open Cup winners, in 2015, Forbes ranked the Sounders top of the MLS annual revenue list ($50 million), and they’ve since won two MLS Cups and only got bigger.
The Sounders were also ranked as the most valuable franchise ($245 million) that year, which was a 717% increase over the expansion fee it paid to join the league back in 2009. Much of this financial success has come from their Western Conference record-breaking attendance figures and local popularity.
5. Inter Miami
Inter Miami FC were founded in 2018 and it took only to 2020 for them to be added to the MLS league roster.
Owned by the same David Beckham that took LA Galaxy to heady heights, they play at the DRV PNK Stadium holding just 18,000 fans as one of the smallest allocations in the MLS.
With a short MLS history to date, and the interruption of COVID in 2020, there is little to report, other than they make the list of one of the most popular MLS teams despite such infancy off the back of being the second most followed MLS team on Instagram, someone, one has to imagine might be driven by a certain David Beckham.
Honorable Mention - New York Red Bulls
Similarly to the Galaxy, the New York Red Bulls remain one of the biggest clubs in the MLS due to their history with legendary players of the game, their wealth, and the club’s geographic location.
Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry, was the Beckham-esque figure for the Eastern Conference as Beckham headed out West three years prior, just as Henry propelled the Red Bull’s to a new level of stardom.
The New York Red Bulls Academy is another hot part of their popularity throughout the New York metropolitan area as it is the first cost-free program in MLS that provides a professional soccer training environment for youth players in New York.
What’s more, the club has seen its popularity increase in recent years with the addition of New York City FC to the MLS ranks as it has added a direct city rival to the Red Bulls, but also kicked the overall soccer scene in New York up to the next level.
Thierry_Henry_Montreal_Impact_vs_NY_Red_Bulls_2012.jpg: Thuymi Doderivative work: Roman.b, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Ironically enough though, and despite the popularity surge throughout the 2010s, the New York side have not yet won an MLS Cup and remain one of the top sides in the country without one as even NYCFC have won an MLS Cup after only being in the league for six years compared to the Red Bulls’ 26.
However, with only 967,251 followers on Facebook compared to NYCFC’s 2,164,614, RBNY are evidence to just how much more the MLS has grown in the past decade since their most famous days with Henry and how they now lack behind.
Stadiums and Attendance
MLS stadiums can often be shared, and there will be reduced capacity for soccer games.
The Leagues latest addition Charlotte FC is a prime example playing in the 75,000 Capacity Bank of America Stadium where 38,000 is allocated for MLS matches
MLS Stadium Attendance Capacity
Nashville can be confusing, there is in excess of a 69000 capacity at the Nissan Stadium, although there is no official reduced capacity for soccer. They have an average attendance  of under 20,000 but have a record attendance of 59,068 (February 29, 2020, Atlanta United FC at Nashville SC)
Beyond Nashville, Atlanta, Seattle Sounders and new MLS franchise Charlotte FC come in around the 40,000 mark.
MLS Stadium Attendances
How many fans a stadium can hold is a different matter entirely from how many fans actually turn up for games.
Game attendance will also be affected by the proximity of the team the home side are playing and how far the away fans have to travel in what numbers they attract away fans.
Here we have some numbers that might look strange given the average attendance numbers for 2019 are higher than capacity but this harks back to the generally reduced capacity that are in place which can be extended as needs be.
But we see Atlanta lead the way by some margin, whilst the Seattle Sounders is second, and Cincinnati, who don't figure in the social media followers top MLS teams, do come in with the third-highest average attendance at stadia during the 2019 season
Time Will Tell How Popular Charlotte FC will be
There is much anticipation as to how popular Charlotte FC will be as one of the newest clubs to join the MLS. Expectation is high and there will no doubt be a close eye or two seeing I they can take on Atlanta for the number of game-day fans attending matches.
Charlotte FC have yet to play their first home game, but with an overall 75,000 capacity, the expectation is high that the initial lower-tier allocation of 38,000 might not be sufficient to hold everyone who wants to attend, and they could soon be challenging Atlanta as the most supported game day MLS team
Biggest MLS Clubs by Social Media Followers
Soccer fans can exist outside of being a local supporter or attendee on game day with the advent of the internet and social media fans can stay closely in touch with everything that is happening on and off the field via the various platforms embraced by the official channels of the clubs.
To that end, we have taken a look at each of the MLS soccer teams and explored their social media channels to see which have the biggest following across, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The total number of social media followers across all three channels amount to 28,181,871 of which the top three teams account for just over 9 million of them, a 33% share
The Top 9 clubs all have at least 1 million followers accounting for 62% of the total - effectively 32% of the sides monopolize 62% of social followers
In terms of total social media followers/fans, LA Galaxy with their swathe of huge signings from both Europe and South America have become the most popular MLS club of all with a total social fan base of over 4.1 million, with New York City FC coming in second almost a million fewer followers at 3.3 million
These two sides are way out in front of Atlanta in third with 1.8 million, whilst at the bottom of the pile come newcomers Charlotte FC with just 155,000 in total, a number that is sure to rise rapidly as they ingratiate themselves into the league
Not all Social networks are created equal though and some find bigger followings on one platform whilst another team may be more popular on another.
Facebook is the largest platform for the popularity of MLS teams in terms of social media followers, with a total of 12.3 million followers. As expected, LA Galaxy (2,242,795) and New York City FC (2,164,614) have 35% of the total share.
Interestingly Atlanta, whilst 3rd overall for social following is not as popular on Facebook where they drop to 13th position with just 311,000 followers.
Instead, New York Red Bulls take the third spot with just under 1 million followers
Instagram is the social network of the younger demographic into which we could delve and consider this is the future fan base of MLS clubs. LA Galaxy are the most popular MLS soccer team on Instagram and dominate with 1,400,000 Insta followers, but things change here with who comes next.
Inter Miami who are just 6th overall for social media followers and just 17th for Facebook fans, are second with a nice round 1 million Instagram followers. Along with LA Galaxy, they are the only club to get to the million mark on this platform.
Atlanta are 5th preceded by Los Angeles in 4th with one thousand more followers at 498,000 and New York City FC in a comfortable third position with 744,000
Twitter has been around since March 2006 and provides us with another angle as LA Galaxy can only make third spot in this table.
At the top are Atlanta, the only MLS team who can boast 1,000,000 Twitter followers. Now Seattle Sounders make their first appearance to the head of one of these tables in second place, but languish in numbers terms with just over half the number of twitter fans Atlanta have with 571,000.
Inter Miami who are 2nd for Instagram followers plainly put all effort into that channel as opposed to Twitter where they rank just 19th of the 28 MLS teams
So we have all the social media followers data, we know how many fans can be accommodated at stadiums and how many, on average, rock up for game day, but it would be interesting to see just how popular these teams are when considering how many times the entire social media following would fill the allocated capacity at the relevant home fields, and it confirms the status of a few of those who have been prevalent in the previous data sets.
La Galaxy would fill the Dignity Health Sports Park over 150 times, New York City FC would fill the Yankee Stadium allocation 100 times, whilst poor old Nashville would fill their Nissan Stadium allocation just 3 times
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