Allianz Field’s smaller size appears to be factor in losing out on U.S.-Mexico qualifier
FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium seats 26,000, while Minnesota United’s home field caps out at 19,600.
The biggest home game for U.S. soccer every four years has flown over St. Paul and landed in Cincinnati, where the U.S. men’s national team will play arch-rival Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on Friday night.
In determining which soccer-specific stadium this pivotal match would be played in, it appears size matters.
FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium seats 26,000, while Minnesota United’s home field caps out at 19,600, plus a few hundred standing-room-only spots.
When the U.S. plays Mexico, every advantage is sought and more fans wearing red, white and blue could help the outcome (if U.S. soccer was able to box out El Tri fans from getting tickets).
Since opening in 2019, Allianz Field has received an abundance of praise. In early October, MLS announced the league all-star game will be played in St. Paul in August 2022, and in late October, Carli Lloyd raved about it as the scene for her final game with the women’s national team.
But dating to the Loons’ first game at the stadium in April 2019, its relative smaller size has been a talking point for MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
“I wish the stadium wasn’t 19,000 and that it was 27,000 because I think at some point we are going to be thinking of how do we make the stadium bigger,” Garber said from the stadium’s press box before the inaugural Loons game.
During the MLS All-Star Game announcement at Allianz, Garber addressed it again, saying, “This is the appropriate size for our league where it is today; there is no doubt.”
It’s not just the Mexico game that has gotten away from Allianz Field — the U.S. has played previous qualifiers this cycle in Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn., and Columbus, Ohio. And size isn’t always the differentiator, with the capacity of Austin’s Q2 Stadium and Columbus’ Lower.com Field also coming in at approximately 20,000. Both of those venues opened in 2021.
Allianz Field still could host a USMNT home World Cup qualifier, with a March 27 game versus Panama the most suitable option left on the schedule. MNUFC has been angling to host that game.
Outgoing Loons CEO Chris Wright previously said there is an option to expand Allianz Field by about 6,000 seats, or about 1,500 in each corner.
“It’s a difficult question,” MNUFC owner Bill McGuire said in October. “I think, ‘yes,’ on the one had we would like to have more people and an opportunity, and maybe that’s four or five thousand people. But you also have to be careful in doing that, that you don’t change or negatively impact the nature of the stadium and what makes it so popular and wonderful. That is something that we have to consider.”
When McGuire and partners were privately financing the $250 million stadium, they didn’t know they would sell out nearly every home game.
“We didn’t want a stadium that was too big and then we have empty seats,” he said. “We want the place to be full. We will certainly think about (expansion) in the coming years.”
But come Friday, Minnesota soccer fans will have the watch the U.S. vs. Mexico match on ESPN2 rather than in person.