MLS is finally back! Ahead of the new season with 27 clubs we have for you a stadium preview. Let's begin our guide with the Eastern Conference.
The 2021 season will see all 27 MLS clubs competing in 34 regular season matches, 17 home and 17 away, with an emphasis on intra-conference regional play. At the end of the regular season, the top seven teams from each conference will qualify for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, which begin on November 19. The MLS Cup final will be played on December 11. Please enjoy the update from each stadium, including presentations of a few brand-new places (three new grounds total), several with significant improvements and many unique and classic ones.
Fan attendance for the beginning of the 2021 season will be limited in order to follow social distancing protocols set in place by local and state guidance. What is more, due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, the three Canadian clubs will play MLS regular season matches in the following U.S. cities and venues until return to their home markets is permitted: CF Montreal at Inter Miami CF Stadium, Toronto FC at Exploria Stadium and Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Atlanta United | Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Mercedes-Benz Stadium with 71,000 seats remains the biggest venue in the whole MLS. In addition to being Atlanta United's home stadium, the venue also serves the NFL Atlanta Falcons team. A true leader when we consider the highest attendance in MLS, including both regular campaigns and playoffs. It witnessed a top-level 73,019 crowd during the 2018 Final and set MLS single-game attendance record in the regular season (72,548 in 2019).
© elisfkc (cc: by-sa)
Honestly, it could be described as innovative and cutting edge for every single element which it is equipped with. Just imagine that the stadium's octagonal roof is an immense structure weighing 27,500 tons! It was the first major US sports venue to use only cashless payment. The final price tag has risen to a stunning $1.6 billion, which makes it one of the most expensive stadiums in history.
CF Montreal | Stade Saputo
According to the travel restrictions CF Montreal will make Inter Miami CF stadium it's temporary home to start the 2021 season. On a regular basis the team hosts rivals at Stade Saputo.
© Benoit Leray (cc: by-nc-nd)
In 2008, the Montreal Impact decided to expand the existing stadium to bring the number of spectators to 20,520. Replacing the former training stadium of the 1976 Olympics complex was a three-stand football-specific stadium that could accommodate 13,034 people. Half of the budget ($17 million) was covered by the Saputo family, whose company became the naming rights owner. The remainder was collected via various commercial partners.
Chicago Fire FC | Soldier Field
Until recently, Chicago Fire played its home games recently at SeatGeek Stadium, a soccer-specific stadium located in the suburbs of the city. In July 2019, after the 14 seasons, the team reached a deal to leave a 20,000 seat stadium in Bridgeview and move back to the Soldier Field. Such a move reflects the club's relaunch in order to escape mediocrity. In recent seasons the Chicago MLS franchise was nearly at the bottom of the league in terms of turnout, almost every time. The numbers for 2018 and 2019 were very low, respectively ranked second-lowest and lowest throughout MLS.
The giant NFL stadium, though reconstructed thoroughly in 2003, offers a capacity of 65,500. For the first time since moving back, the Fire will welcome fans to Soldier Field. To start, around 7,000 seats will be available for the April 17 home opener against New England.
Columbus Crew SC | Crew Stadium
Reigning champion Columbus Crew SC, who will start the season with home matches at Historic Crew Stadium, will debut with its new downtown stadium this summer. Opening of the stadium is set for July 3, with the Crew – New England Revolution fixture. The date means that the first 4 matches of the 2021 MLS season will be played at the old stadium and following 13 at the new one.
The new stadium will hold some 20,000 people, of whom 3,400 will occupy the Nordecke – new grandstand for the most vocal supporters, which we praised last year.
D.C. United | Audi Field
Audi Field was possibly the most anticipated stadium of MLS. DC United had long dreamt of having a true football-specific home and finally, the dream came true in 2018. The venue is hardly the largest or most impressive stadium of the league but it makes the most of a very tight and constrained plot. The 20,000-seater witnessed approximately 88% attendance during its first seasons.
Contrary to many other countries, however, public authorities did not pay for the stadium construction itself, valued just below $200 million. Along with the scheme the stadium was built privately. Audi Field joined growing number of MLS clubs and implemented safe-standing sections, as we recently reported.
Cincinnati FC | West End Stadium
West End Stadium shows up as one of the completely new arenas on the MLS map. A 26,000-seater will be equipped with a hybrid playing field and offer a great percentage of premium seating, 17% of total capacity. The 59 suites included will be the most in an MLS venue that doesn’t also host an NFL team. Designed by Populous, it marked the start of the foundation work in July 2019.
Moving to a new stadium is a natural consequence of the club's rapid development and willingness to take another step forward. Until now, FC Cincinnati played their home fixtures at the non-functional Nippert Stadium, which is a university stadium for American football. Recently it has presented its facade possibilities. An eye-catching light display only confirmed the massive capabilities of the new venue of FC Cincinnati. The new $250 million venue will debut in MLS during the game vs. Inter Miami CF, scheduled May 16.
Inter Miami CF | DRV PNK Stadium
Drive Pink Stadium, formerly Inter Miami CF Stadium, is the temporary home of Inter Miami CF located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was raised super quickly on the site of the former Lockhart Stadium. The team, which is co-owned by soccer giant David Beckham, keep the Lockhart site as the permanent training complex for the Clubs’ teams, including its youth academy when Miami Freedom Park opens.
The future stadium, or should we say a recreation destination, providing 58 acres of public parks and green space, a tech hub, restaurants and shops, soccer fields for the community, a 25,000 stadium for Inter Miami, and many more features.
Nashville SC | Nissan Stadium
Currently, Nashville SC play their games at Nissan Stadium, which they share with the NFL franchise Tennessee Titans. The 69,143-seater offers the soccer team a lot, but majority of their efforts and attention belongs to the construction of the new home.
The new stadium, aimed to be finished by May 2022, will be able to host 30,000 fans. The arena with a safe-standing supporters’ section is featured as the most concert-ready future venue in MLS. If all goes according to plan, the new facility should cost close to $335 million, which is $85 million more than initially planned. Having settled court challenges, Nashville SC are now working in full swing on site.
New England Revolution | Gillette Stadium
Gillette Stadium serves as the home stadium and administrative offices for both the New England Patriots of the NFL and the New England Revolution of MLS. While the team from NFL suits with the stadium capacity, there is no way that REVs fill up Gillette ever (only one game with +40,000 attendees in history). That is why there are rumours about a new stadium for REVs. For the new season inauguration the New England Revolution will take on D.C. United at Gillette Stadium.
© Rafael Ribeiro / CBF (cc: by-nc)
Since its opening in 2002, the stadium has been known as Gillette Stadium. While the name is a commercial one, it earned the stadium its nickname of The Razor. After prolonging the contract, Gillette will remain in the name until 2031.
New York City FC | Yankee Stadium & Red Bull Arena
Since its opening in April 2009, the stadium remains NY city’s prime baseball location, but also hosts various other events, like concerts and American football games. The football club uses the Yankee Stadium as its interim home for years already. City Football Group and NYCFC are fully committed to building and investing in NYC, raising their own new venue.
© Groupe Canam (cc: by-sa)
In the meantime, NYCFC are handling scheduling and availability issues with Yankee Stadium in 2021. COVID-19 pandemic protocols and general changeover timelines with the MLB’s New York Yankees (co-tenant) mean that another stadium will be necessary. In addition to 9 games at Yankee Stadium, the club will also compete in 8 other regular-season home games at Red Bull Arena.
New York Red Bulls | Red Bull Arena
Red Bull Arena is the home for two professional football clubs from the USA. In addition to the MLS team New York Red Bulls, women’s NJ/NY Gotham FC competes here. With a seating capacity of 25,000 it was opened in March 2010, when the Red Bulls defeated Brazilian side Santos, 3-1. Since then, used specifically for Red Bulls MLS games, the arena has also hosted a number of top club and international squads including the U.S. Men's and Women's National Teams, Ecuador, Colombia, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Manchester City and Juventus.
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Before the 2020 campaign, the club changed its stadium similarly to the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. The Red Bulls converted the "South Ward" into a safe standing section with a rail seating system. In the new season, the venue will debut with the.game against Kansas City and also will let New York City FC play here as a host for 8 games.
Orlando City SC | Exploria Stadium
Orlando City SC are set to host Atlanta United FC in their home opener on April 17 at Exploria Stadium. The Lions have been playing here since 2017.
Interestingly, after groundbreaking it was still planned for 19,000 people, but Orlando City’s popularity during the first MLS season (played temporarily at nearby Citrus Bowl) resulted in instant expansion of the tribunes. The three corner sections and an upper tier in the south jointly raised a capacity to 25,500. The 100% privately financed venue finally cost $155 million.
Philadelphia Union | Subaru Park
The last year naming rights deal with the automaker Subaru renamed the Philadelphia Union’s new stadium Subaru Park. Since opening its doors in 2010, it has hosted several various sports events. During the MLS games, the Union has gathered a decent audience with the 2019 season's 92,5% average attendance.
The multipurpose facility that features 30 luxury suites, a natural grass pitch, a built-in concert stage, and capacity of 18,500 for soccer and 26,000 for concerts. Coming off the best season in club history and their first Supporters’ Shield trophy, the Philadelphia Union will begin the new campaign by traveling to the reigning MLS Cup Champions, Columbus Crew SC.
Toronto FC | BMO Field
Toronto FC joins CF Montreal and Vancouver Whitecaps FC as the ones obliged to take advantage of the courtesy of other venues. Exploria Stadium will be the temporary home to start the 2021 season. On a regular basis the team hosts rivals at BMO Field, where it will hopefully return.
Construction of BMO Field was launched in 2006 and after just over a year the stadium was opened. The largest attendance for any event at the stadium was recorded in 2017, when the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Centennial Classic (season outdoor game) in front of 40,148 people. Regarding to the MLS, the highest gate number (36,045) was counted in 2016, during the Toronto FC game against Seattle Sounders FC.
Author: Karol Tatar