Gotham FC's Challenge Cup attendance success starts make or break year

  • 14,241 people were on hand for Gotham FC's first home game of 2024
  • The Bats should increase their attendance levels this season
Midge Purce of Gotham FC
Midge Purce of Gotham FC / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Despite losing 1-0 to the San Diego Wave in the Challenge Cup curtain-raiser for the 2024 NWSL season, NJ/NY Gotham FC can be more than happy with what happened off the field on Friday night. 14,241 people were in attendance, the most since 15,058 attended their June 4 matchup, coincidentally also against San Diego, last year.

In spite of winning last season's championship and being in the largest market in the US, Gotham was seventh in average attendance last season with just 6,293 fans per game. While that was a nice increase on the 4,415 they averaged in 2022, there's still a large chasm between them and the six teams ahead of them. The Washington Spirit was sixth in attendance last season averaging 10,876. The Wave led the way averaging 20,718 fans per game.

After years of toiling in obscurity and irrelevance in the New York sports scene, Gotham FC is unquestionably at the club's most popular heading into 2024. Not just because of their championship win last year, but because of their increased visibility off the field as well.

Gotham's perfect storm for increase in attendance

Just this past offseason Gotham signed prominent USWNT stars Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle, and Emily Sonnett. Some players rang the Nasdaq opening bell, were the Guests of Honor at the Times Square New Year's Eve celebration, and announced the signings of Davidson and Dunn on CBS This Morning. These factors combined with a championship win, an increase in in-community marketing, and a push of ticket sales, as well as a seemingly ever-increasing level of apathy amongst fans of both New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls, could see Gotham's attendance potentially explode in 2024.

The Bats have seen a steady increase in attendance every season, with 2020 being the obvious exception, since 2018. In 2023, six of the twelve teams set all-time highs in average attendance. Looking at some of the attendance figures and their increases from 2022, both the Kansas City Current and Washington seem to set the framework for what Gotham should aim for in 2024. Kansas City increased from 7,657 to 11,353 and Washington went from 5,955 to 10,876.

An increase of about 3,600-5,000 and averaging 10,000+ is something that should be more than attainable for Gotham, especially with such a great start due to the Challenge Cup. Obviously, this all depends on how they kick on from game one of the season. This includes off-the-field aspects like marketing, their new and improved fan fest in 2024, making tickets cheap and easy to purchase, and maintaining the high standard of play that was established last year.

Can they do it? It is possible. If they can't, then serious questions need to be asked about how this club moves forward. From a marketing perspective, this team has the pieces in place to have a really successful 2024. Gotham FC can easily set themselves up as one of the premier destinations in NWSL moving forward; they just have to seize the moment.