The Columbus Crew Works To Boost Attendance After World Cup.

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In the United States the 2010 World Cup attracted a record-breaking number of viewers. After the first two weeks of the tournament ESPN said ratings were 80 percent higher than the World Cup in 2006. But now that the next tournament is four years away, will fans watch Major League Soccer with the same passion?

Based on attendance numbers for the Columbus Crew after previous World Cups the answer is, well, maybe. The general manager of the Crew says attendance was up when the U.S. made it to the quarterfinals in 2002. But the last tournament when the U.S. lost early on, the Crew fan turnout wasn’t as noticeable. General Manager Mark McCullers:

“I don’t think that we’re going to see a 20 percent spike as a result of the World Cup, but people who don’t follow soccer as closely may have an interest. And we expect those casual fans to come out, whereas without the World Cup it may not have been top-of-mind to them,” McCullers says.

McCullers says with or without the tournament, the popularity of Major League Soccer is growing. In two years the supporter’s section at the stadium has doubled in season ticket sales. McCullers says some of the growth comes from a Hispanic fan group called La Turbina Amarilla, which in English means the Yellow Engine. In recent years Hispanics have played an important role at Crew Stadium. Francisco Terreros is the Director of Hispanic Development, and it’s his job to market the Crew’s name in Spanish.

“What we do is we create a new platform for the Hispanics only. In our case this year is called Tu Ciudad, Tu Futbol, which means your city your soccer.”

Terreros says the marketing strategy has been successful so far. He estimates that at least $250,000 in sales come from Hispanics.

“Soccer, or futbol, is the most important cultural asset that they hold on to. I mean there’s a lot of money to be made there as well as the culture and the knowledge that they bring to the game.”

McCullers and Terreros both agree that if there’s one thing to take away from this year’s World Cup it’s that soccer, in the United States, is only getting bigger.

“If you look at this next generation coming along, I can’t tell you of an eight-year-old kid that lives in the United States today that hasn’t played soccer recreationally. So I think that as the years will go by and as all the important events like the US and the World Cup all of these things will have that impact and will make soccer the number one sport in America in twenty years.”

Jen Monroe, WOSU News.