Maybe attendance would have been better if Austin FC had been one of the teams playing. Perhaps the weather, close to frost and rain, was also a factor. But Bundesliga sides Stuttgart and Cologne will view with some dismay the presence of their friendly at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas.
According to sources within the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL), 7,000 tickets were sold before the game. But whether they all came to watch the game at the Major League Soccer stadium is another question, as the upper stands were empty – a big contrast to the packed CITYPARK stadium where St. Louis CITY SC hosted the club from Bundesliga Bayer Leverkusen.
Despite the low attendance, Stuttgart highlighted the positives of the tour. “We managed to add another week of training and some team events, plus we were able to give something back to families after not being allowed to travel after two years,” said VfB Stuttgart sporting director , Sven Mislintat, after the game.
“It was a great place, in a fantastic training facility provided by Austin FC,” Mislintat said. “Then today we had a great exhibition game with many young players making their debuts, players who could play a big role for us in the future.”
Indeed, the action on the pitch was fantastic publicity for the league. Both clubs fielded young teams, and although it was the last game of the year, Stuttgart came out strong. Goals from Konstantinos Mavropanos (12′ & 41′) and Tanguy Coulibaly (28′ & 30′) gave Stuttgart a comfortable lead in the first half. Cologne then halved the lead in the second half thanks to goals from Josh Schwirten (68th) and Sargis Adamyan (85th).
“There are a lot of things we can take away from this trip, like how they set up their training facilities, but also American sports like basketball,” said the head coach of Stuttgart, Michael Wimmer, after the game. Wimmer also played down the low attendance. “It’s the first time we’ve been to America; we’re just trying to leave a mark, and when you come more often and show up well and keep playing well, more people will come.
The neutrals certainly witnessed some fantastic play, with plenty of young players trying to make their mark. Six goals will also give the neutrals a taste of the Bundesliga, which is traditionally the highest-scoring league among Europe’s top five leagues.
“Absolutely,” Wimmer said. “Even the first half wasn’t a typical 4-0 game, and it was a spectacle with six goals and exactly what we wanted.” Defender Mavropanos, who had a great game, also considered the game a success. “I think it was pretty good,” Mavropanos said. “Maybe we just need to get a little better in the table, and then more people will come.”
Mislintat believes Stuttgart will repeat a trip to the United States despite declining Q2 stadium attendance, especially as Major League Soccer clubs offer some of the best training facilities on the planet.
“I don’t know them all, but I visited a few during my time [as head of scouting] at Arsenal because the owner was American and in general the training environment here is great,” Mislintat said.
Visiting stadiums and training facilities could be one of the main reasons why German clubs return more frequently. The new MLS teams have some of the best facilities, and clubs like Stuttgart want to learn from their experiences in the United States.
As for the low attendance at the Q2 Stadium, Stuttgart and Cologne know how to put the figures into perspective. The timing of bad weather, parallel college games and lack of Austin FC participation were all contributing factors, as was the reluctance of most clubs to ignore the United States in recent decades.
The low attendance should therefore not lead the German teams to abandon the market. Instead, the opposite is likely happening, Stuttgart want to return and the DFL are in trades with other teams to make the most of the momentum that will come with the 2026 FIFA World Cup in America North.
Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and Area Manager USA at transfer market. It has also been featured in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth