Cleveland is getting a Major League Soccer Pro Squad but can the team carry more?
As of right now, the local sports scene has five major to mid-major sports teams. The Cavaliers and Charge of the NBA and NBA G-Leauge, the Browns of the NFL, the Guardians of the MLB, and the Monsters of the AHL. These are the biggest sports squads in the city. Now, they’ll soon be joined by a sixth, a Major League Soccer squad coming in 2025.
To be clear, it’s an MLS NEXT Pro squad, basically the MLS’s version of a Triple-A team in baseball. As of right now the league and city are looking for sites to build a stadium, which would serve as a home base of sorts for the club.
The league’s arrival in town isn’t the first time the city has had pro soccer in the city, as the old in-door team, the Cleveland Crunch, was huge for a while. Well, as huge as indoor soccer can be. They really found their niche when the Browns left and the city at large was looking for alternatives. The team folded in 2005 but returned with the new developmental in-door soccer league dubbed M2. The squad actually won the league title this past season.
With now two minor league soccer teams in the area, the question has to be asked; can the city support an actual major league team?
Could Cleveland support a Major League squad?
The Browns and Cavs do decent figures when it comes to attendance, but the Guardians don’t, which is ironic as they’re the best ran franchise of the three. The Browns are in the top 12 in sell-outs for the season (but rank 19th in attendance per game), and the Cavs are ranked in the top seven this season in attendance per.
The average MLS squad draws in about the same as a high-end NBA team; around 20,000 per match. The Cavaliers pull in 19,000+ for their home games. I don’t think a proper MLS squad could pull in that much, not with how trendy the MSL is at the moment. The league would suffer the same issues that an NHL club in the CLE would, not enough people willing to pay the huge cost per ticket.
That said, some of the lower-tier clubs average around 12-15k fans per game. That might be more sustainable for a market like this one. The state already has two pro teams, with Cinncinatti and Columbus both having a squad. The Columbus squad, The Crew, is currently owned by the Haslams, so it’s very possible that their involvement could kill any potential squad to the area but assuming they didn’t, it’s possible that a club could work.