Soccer Match Presents Enormous Opportunity for Baltimore

| March 23, 2012 | 10 Comments

For the third time in the last four years, M&T Bank Stadium will host a European soccer match.  In 2009, AC Milan and Chelsea came to Baltimore and, judging by the price tickets were going for outside the stadium, they probably could have sold 100,000 tickets to the game though a sellout was reached at 70,000 tickets.  Baltimore garnered international attention and a fever brewed throughout the city.

Following that game, soccer became a hot topic for our leaders.  We were considered as a potential World Cup site if the US was chosen (unfortunately they weren’t.)  A new stadium was pitched for local minor league team Crystal Palace in Pigtown, as well as a training facility at Port Covington, but the team no longer exists.  And, of course, DC United has been flirting with a relocation to Baltimore for the last three years.

Two interesting studies have been performed by the Maryland Stadium Authority in relation to the Baltimore Metropolitan area.  One was on the earning potential of a minor league soccer stadium being built in Pigtown and an MLS stadium in Westport.  The study revealed that an MLS stadium would generate millions. However, the study did not recommend the minor league venue in Pigtown.

A study was also launched in June of last year on the possibility of a DC United training facility and youth academy located in Elkridge.  To my knowledge, those results have not yet been published, but a training facility in Elkridge (just minutes from downtown Baltimore) would certainly indicate a very strong interest in Baltimore from DC United.  DC United was also a campaign donor to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

“DC United is sincere in their interest in relocating to Baltimore.  I would certainly welcome the United to Baltimore and I think the city would support it and support it well.  The question about the stadium as always is, how do you fund it?”  Councilman William Cole told Westport developer Patrick Turner has expressed an interest in attaching a hotel to the stadium as part of his $1.5 billion Wesport development.

Currently the funding of a stadium is being further discussed in the Maryland General Assembly and United has agreed to a new two-year stadium lease at aging RFK Stadium.  RFK  though is not a long-term solution as the United have the highest stadium operating costs in the league and are without the ability to sell luxury boxes.

Now three years after the sensation that brewed from the AC Milan vs. Chelsea soccer match, Baltimore once again has another great opportunity with the national and international worlds of soccer watching as Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC of the English Premier League are nearing a deal to play at M&T Bank Stadium on July 28th.  If DC United, as well as the MLS, appear to be on the fence about Baltimore then this is a great chance to knock that fence down.  If not United, expansion or relocation of another team could become a future possibility.

Many have made the argument that Baltimore’s professional sports dollar is maxed out with the Orioles and Ravens.  I’m not sure anything could be further from the truth.  The Orioles have not had a winning season since the year after the Ravens came to town.  Every time the Orioles approach .500 in the summer months, Camden Yards is packed which says a lot  for a fan base that hasn’t seen a winning team this century.

And as far as the Ravens go, there aren’t many franchises that are better supported by a local market than they are in Baltimore.  I recall a trip to Charlotte last year when more than 25,000 Ravens fans made the trip to see them play the Panthers.  Adding the fact that I can’t ever find a regular season ticket for less than $100 and the playoff tickets had the highest average price in the NFL on Stubhub at $367.98 for the divisional round of the playoffs last year, you tell me if people in Baltimore still have money to spend on sports?

For the record, you could basically buy season tickets to the United with the money you spent on one playoff ticket.  Season ticket packages start at $384.75 for adults and $251.75 for youth.

The average attendance for an MLS game was 17,872 in 2011 with Seattle heavily carrying the weight with an average attendance of 38,496.  So more realistically most MLS teams average in the 15,000-16,000 range.  DC United averaged 14,532 in 2010 and 15,196 in 2011.  It’s really not asking a lot for Baltimore to become one of the model MLS fan bases, especially considering the Baltimore Blast have often averaged more than 7,000 in attendance for a league most people don’t realize exists.  Give Baltimore that chance – maybe the league will have another Seattle on their hands!

The opportunity to once again pack the house and provide a terrific environment for the July 8th Tottenham vs. Liverpool match could lead to many more soccer opportunities in Baltimore.  With all the doors opened by the AC Milan vs. Chelsea match, another surge of momentum could lead to something real.  I sure hope so, I’m sure getting tired of the sports desert we get around here in the summer when the O’s are 20 game out of first by July.




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Founder and Publisher of, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.