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Are You Getting What You Pay For?: A Look at Ticket Prices in the Eastern Conference

By Jacob Sokol

Photo courtesy of Jacob Sokol

MLS is on the rise. It’s an undeniable fact. From attendance numbers to the decade-long Apple TV deal to Lionel Messi deciding to make Miami his new home, every metric is moving upwards. 

MLS has made a plethora of smart decisions over the last two decades to obtain and maintain this trajectory. At the end of the day though, there is one main catalyst that has been vital— the average fan. 

While MLS has made strides, there were still many years when fans of MLS dealt with issues. American football and baseball stadiums used to be the standard venue, and still is for some teams. Before Apple TV there was coverage in various formats with blackouts often getting in the way of consumption. The salary cap has been slowly rising, but it has required patience from many who want to watch the best of the best. 

Through all of these years of support, where fans have put their faith in the product of MLS, ticket prices have also risen. It makes sense. With franchise fees, salary caps, and marketing budgets at an all-time high, the league needs to make a profit. But fans still expect good performances if they are paying premium prices. 

When looking at the Eastern Conference standings, have you ever wondered if a team’s performance correlates to the price being charged? In most forms of entertainment, fans want a good ROI. In MLS that ROI comes in the form of points from draws but primarily from wins. As a fan of the beautiful game in the United States of America, you deserve to know if the results on the pitch are worth the fee you are paying. 

The Price of Success

Fifteen teams comprise the Eastern Conference of MLS. With the top four teams in the Eastern Conference having more points than the top team in the West, it is clear which half of the league reigns supreme. From Cincinnati to Miami, here is a look at current league standings versus ticket pricing from most to least expensive. 

Pricing is based off of Ticketmaster prices averaged over each team's next three home games (excluding Miami).

One statistic immediately stands out. Inter Miami is bottom of the league with the most expensive pricing by far. If you don’t understand why, you most likely have been sleeping under a rock. Arguably the greatest player in the history of the game, Lionel Messi, is headed to Miami. This is guaranteed to increase demand and pricing to astronomical levels.

The Fans - Winners and Losers 

Beyond The Messi Effect, there are a few clear winners and losers when it comes to ticket pricing compared to performances. Sitting at second and third in the standings are Nashville and New England, but their ticket prices rank 9th and 10th most expensive. This is truly a bargain, especially for Nashville fans, who have the reigning MVP in Hany Mukhtar. They have also secured a playoff spot every year since joining MLS, so they’ve shown consistency and value. 

A couple of bigger losers are Charlotte FC and Toronto FC. Toronto, sitting in thirteenth place while charging the third-highest ticket price, is arguably the worst ticket in MLS. What they have going for them is a couple of the best-paid designated players in the league between Insigne and Bernadeschi.

On the other hand, Charlotte has one of the lowest-paid rosters in the league, so it doesn’t make sense why they’d have the fifth most expensive ticket. Charlotte, sitting in tenth place, should at least make the playoffs in order to warrant the price tag they charge fans. Karol Świderski is the main bright spot as far as star power the Queen City offers. 

Their venue is still an American football stadium, home to the Carolina Panthers. At this venue, turf grass remains which many players have complained about, saying it is difficult to adapt to and can often cause injuries. There were $50 million dollars in renovations put into the stadium, but it has mainly catered to the most expensive ticket holders, creating a bar exclusively available to them close to where players enter the pitch.

Charlotte FC - pricing tips

Photo courtesy of Jacob Sokol

If you live in the Charlotte FC area and love to watch the beautiful game, there are ways to make this possible on a budget. One of the best tips is to look for games with the upper deck open. On July 8th Charlotte FC will host the best team in the league, FC Cincinnati. The upper deck will be open for this match and tickets can be acquired for as low as $15 per seat on Ticketmaster.

Besides the few games where the upper deck is open, there is also the MLS Next Pro side, Crown Legacy, which plays at Matthews Sportsplex. Tickets for those games typically range from $10-15 and you are much closer to the action, sitting in bleachers. It’s true that this isn’t the first team, but many players are shared between Charlotte FC and Crown Legacy. Patrick Agyemang, for instance, scored a last-minute game-tying goal against Seattle Sounders in Charlotte’s last home match and regularly features for Crown Legacy as well. 

Whether you have the money to splurge or attend on a budget, Charlotte FC does have a few different options.