UPDATE: Tickets sold out almost immediately after opening to the public.
When MLS Cup tickets finally go on sale to the general public today at 10 a.m., pickings will be pretty thin. Based on the latest ticketing maps on SeatGeek.com — the Sounders’ ticket manager — every seat available during the presale was sold, even after prices increased to more than $100 for seats in the far reaches of the upper deck. It appears a handful of sections and possibly some assorted seats elsewhere were held back for the public sale.
Around midday on Thursday, Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer told KJR that they had already sold more than 50,000 tickets but if the maps are accurate that number is likely well past 60,000 already.
How is that possible considering the Sounders “only” have about 32,000 season-ticket holders?
The majority of those season-ticket holders chose the “pay as we play” option on their playoff tickets, meaning they were automatically sold seats once it became official that the Sounders would be hosting the final on Nov. 10. In addition to not having to stress about getting their tickets, those season-ticket holders also got a relatively good deal on prices. Most seats were sold for only marginally more than they cost for other playoff games. The most expensive seats — club seats at midfield — were $118 and some tickets were as inexpensive as $35. (By contrast, the cheapest Seattle Seahawks season tickets cost about $108 per game.)
All season-ticket holders were also permitted to buy additional tickets — it appears they could purchase as many as six per account. Employees of some of the Sounders business partners were also given early access to tickets and eventually people who placed deposits on 2020 Sounders season tickets joined them. Although that second wave of ticket sales were more expensive — prices ranged from about $47 to more than $200 — that too proved to be a relative bargain. SeatGeek uses “dynamic pricing” which means that prices increase along with demand. As tickets sold, more sections opened and prices climbed as well. The lower-bowl was completely sold out by midday and by the end of the night on Thursday, seats in the far corners of the 300 section were selling for more than $100. By Friday morning, those were gone too.
Many of those tickets have resurfaced on the secondary market on sites like StubHub. As of Thursday night, the cheapest tickets on StubHub were nearly $170 and the most expensive were more than $1,500.
MLS rules also dictate that a certain number of tickets must be set aside for visiting fans. As of publication, it was unclear how many tickets Toronto FC were allocated. Talk among TFC supporters was that they were allocated about 650.
In addition to the TFC allocation, the Sounders also had to hold back tickets for MLS and its league-wide sponsors. At previous MLS Cup finals, that’s caused some issues with season-ticket holders being moved out of prime seats. That issue was likely mitigated by the ample supply of suites at CenturyLink Field, as complaints of drastic moves have been hard to find.
Assuming sales continue to be robust at the public release, there’s every reason to expect the Sounders to break their previous attendance record of 67,385 that saw them beat the Portland Timbers in 2013. How much higher they get than that is unclear. CenturyLink Field claims to have a max capacity of 72,000 but can only get there by adding nearly 4,000 temporary seats. The stadium has about 68,000 fixed seats and the Seahawks have never packed in more than 69,190. Even if the Sounders are able to reach that theoretical 72,000 capacity, they’d still fall just short of the MLS Cup record of 73,019 that watched Atlanta United beat the Timbers last year. The only other MLS Cup final to crack 60,000 was in 2005 when the New England Revolution played at home.