Major League Soccer is further establishing itself as a significant player in world football after the 2017 season saw a new average attendance record that makes it more popular with match going fans than Serie A or Ligue 1 in Europe.
The 2017 regular season was brought to a close on Sunday ahead of the upcoming MLS Cup playoffs, with the average attendance across the league hitting 22,158 per game. In comparison, the average attendance for the most recent full 2016/17 season in Serie A was 22,106.
The aggregated attendance for the whole MLS season this year was 8,267,534. That puts it higher than the top flight in France, where aggregated attendance last season was 7,882,966. Average attendance in Ligue 1 was also lower at 21,143.
After initially slumping between the league's foundation in 1996 and the start of the 21st century, MLS average attendance has been climbing almost every season since 2003 - the total increase in average attendance has been over 7,000 in the last 14 years.
For eight consecutive MLS seasons between 2009 and 2016, Seattle Sounders held the record for the highest attendance of any team in the league. But that run ended in 2017 after the arrival of new franchise Atlanta United raised it to 48,200 - a new record in MLS as well as US club soccer history as whole going back to the NASL explosion of the 1970s.
Atlanta, who became the first expansion team since Seattle in 2009 to reach the playoffs in their first season, also broke the single game attendance record multiple times.
Sharing the Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United set their latest attendance record at 71,824 in the final game of the regular season against overall table toppers and Supporters' Shield winners Toronto FC.
Their own previous record stood at 70,245 from a game against Orlando City in September.
In the Premier League, only Manchester United and Tottenham (while their temporary 'home' is at Wembley) have big enough stadiums to manage that kind of attendance. Just having the capacity is one thing, but filling a stadium is then a whole other challenge.
MLS data sourced from MLS Official Website