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Why the Future of Major League Soccer Is Downtown

Young urbanites are Major League Soccer's most loyal demographic. They want their stadiums in city centers.
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AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Four years after its inaugural season and with the new millennium approaching, Major League Soccer looked deflated. Attendance in major urban markets was plummeting. Los Angeles was averaging 11,000 fewer fans in 1999 compared to its opening season. Attendance dropped similarly in New York by about 10,000 people. Maybe the pessimists were right? Americans enjoyed watching their kids play soccer. They just didn't want to pay to see the pros do it.

The fledgling league would be revolutionized that season, however, by an unlikely source. It wasn't the slick hair and status of David Beckham—it was a new stadium design, built specifically for soccer and mirrored after many of the boxy arenas that litter soccer-crazed Europe. And it happened in Columbus, Ohio.