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10 Largest Soccer Attendances Ever

If soccer has learned one thing from the Global pandemic, it is that a stadium without fans loses more than just match revenues.

Seeing empty stadiums with crowd noise being pumped out over the speaker system just didn’t have the same magic to it.

Fans are the heartbeat of any club, having them inside your home stadium can lift and terrify in equal measure. Throughout the years, there have been games with attendances that raise eyebrows to this day.

Let’s look at the biggest soccer attendances in history.

10. West Ham vs Bolton Wanderers – FA Cup, Final (1923)

  • Attendance: Officially 126,047 (unofficially almost 300,000 due to fans without tickets)

Even ignoring the “unofficial” number, this capacity crowd was impressive. The first-ever game to be played at the new Wembley Stadium eventually began over 45 minutes late due to crowd trouble.

Bolton eventually went on to beat West Ham 2-0, but the immense crowd somewhat overshadowed the game.

An iconic photograph, with thousands of fans surrounding a mounted police officer on the pitch, gives some sense of the overcrowding on the day, so many people tried to enter the stadium it is a miracle no one was hurt.

9. Portugal vs Brazil – FIFA U-20 World Cup, Final (1991)

  • Attendance: 127,000

127,000 fans crammed into the stadium to watch defending Under 20s champions Portugal defeat their Brazilian counterparts in this incredible game.

Part of the reason for such a high attendance was due to Brazil also being a Portuguese-speaking nation, the other was the array of youth talent on display.

With future greats Figo, Rui Costa, and Roberto Carlos playing, it is little wonder that the stadium was packed to the rafters. Portugal went on to defend their title with a 4-2 penalty shootout victory.

Interestingly, this tournament was the last time the Soviet Union appeared in a tournament under that name, the country had dissolved by the end of 1991.

8. Real Madrid vs AC Milan – European Cup, Semi-Final (1956)

  • Attendance: 129,690

Well over 100,000 squeezed into the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on April 19th, 1956 to see these two European giants battle it out for a place in the final against French club Reims.

This being the first leg of the semi-final, Madrid romped to a 4-2 victory, eventually making the final 5-4 on aggregate.

Thanks to Alfredo Di Stefano, Madrid’s legendary striker, scoring to finish the game off,

Madrid held on to progress, beating Reims 4-3 in the final in Paris two months later.

7. East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan – Federation Cup, Semi-Final (1997)

  • Attendance: 131,781

131,781 is a big number, and admit it, you weren’t expecting a match from the Indian Federation cup to be on the top 10 list, were you?

Well, it may not be such a surprise given that these two teams were the heavyweights of their time.

With a final score of 4-1 to East Bengal, the game was noteworthy not just for the incredible record attendance figure for an Asian sporting event, but also for the first hat-trick in the history of the Kolkata Derby.

With a stadium capacity of 120,000, it looks like fans were simply allowed to keep buying tickets even when the game was sold out.

But given the rivalry between the teams, and the massive media storm surrounding the Derby, it is only surprising that more fans weren’t admitted.

6. Benfica vs Porto – Portugal Primeira Liga (1987)

  • Attendance: 135,000

Portuguese giants both, this game on 4th January 1987 will go down in history for both the implications of the result and for the huge attendance that witnessed it.

Having recently lost 7-1, to Sporting Lisbon, Benfica were well and truly on the ropes, hanging on at the top of the table, joint 1st with FC Porto.

With a visit from Porto in January, the stage was set for a battle of wills, someone had to give up first place, someone had to blink first.

On this occasion, it was Porto, Benfica winning 3-1 in front of their home crowd, the biggest in their history at 135,000.

Not only did they win, but they went on to win the league, beating Porto by 3 points. Benfica also defeated Sporting in the cup to win a famous double. A double they would not replicate for almost 30 years.

5. Celtic vs Leeds – European Cup, Semi-Final (1970)

  • Attendance: 136,505

Celtic Park, commonly known as Parkhead, has been home to Glasgow Celtic since 1892, always holding a partizan crowd, especially at old Firm Derbies.

This 1970 European Cup semi-final against Leeds United was even more so.

With a record European crowd of 136,505, Celtic had allocated Leeds United just 10,000 tickets for the game. Even more incredibly, Leeds was only able to sell 4500, returning the rest for Celtic to sell to their fans.

An incredible 132,000 Celtic fans, and 4500 Leeds fans, watched Scottish legend Billy Bremner give Leeds the lead after 14 minutes, tying the game at 1-1 on aggregate.

Eventually, Celtic re-took control and went on to defeat Leeds 2-1, with goals in the 47th minute by John Hughes, and a winner in the 51st minute from Robert Murdoch.

Sadly for Celtic, they reached the final and lost to Dutch team Feyenoord.

But, this record crowd, a record that still stands today, was there to witness their team beat the mighty Leeds united and become the first British team to play in two European Cup finals.

4. Celtic vs Aberdeen – Scottish Cup, Final (1937)

  • Attendance: 147,365

More record-breaking attendances in Scotland, and again it’s the mighty Celtic breaking them.

An incredible 147,365 fans were at Hampden Park in Scotland to see Celtic defeat Aberdeen in the 1937 Scottish Cup Final, a European record for a club game that still stands today.

Defeating Aberdeen 2-1 in the final, Celtic took the lead in the 12th minute, then inexplicably conceding an equalizer within 60 seconds.

A 70th-minute winner for Celtic sent the crowd wild, as well as the thousands still outside the stadium still trying to get in.

Only a week earlier, Hampden had been home to a Home international game between Scotland and England.

With another record attendance looking possible, many fans had hoped to get into the stadium to see the final.

3. England – Scotland – Home International (1937)

  • Attendance: 149,547

Just a week before the Scottish FA Cup Final, Hampden Park welcomed Scotland vs England, in front of almost 150,000 screaming Scotsmen.

Interestingly, the Scottish FA refused permission for the game to be played on the radio, so this huge crowd very much had luck on their side.

If you weren’t there, you couldn’t find out the score until the following days’ newspapers reported on it.

This pre-internet era meant that Scottish fans missed out on their team defeating England 3-1 on the day. England had been leading at halftime, but a flurry of Scottish goals in the second half meant England had to head home soundly beaten.

2. Brazil vs Spain – World Cup, Group Stage (1950)

  • Attendance: 152,722

Home bias counts here, with attendances at the 1950 World Cup swinging from around 3500 spectators, up to an almost inconceivable 200,000.

With hosts Brazil drawing the biggest attendances, it is against Spain that we have our second-highest attendance.

On 13th July 1950, an absolute display of domination by Brazil as they took apart Spain 6-1 in front of 152,722 fans at the historic Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro.

The game was already over at 6-0 before a late consolation for Spain somewhat softened the blow.

But given the huge and obviously biased crowd, it is little wonder that the occasion could have put them off their stride.

To put how big the shifts in crowd sizes were, it is worth noting that three days later, Spain played again, this time against Sweden, in front of only 11,227 fans.

Brazil went on to the deciding game against Uruguay, they also had the tournament’s top scorer in Ademir.

The team scored 22 goals over the tournament, and the only own goal of the entire tournament was scored in the game against Spain.

Unfortunately for Spaniard Jose Parra Martinez, putting the ball into his own net set Brazil off on their 6-1 rout.

1. Brazil vs Uruguay – World Cup, Final (1950)

  • Attendance: 199,854

That’s right folks, we’re at number one on our list, and now we are getting into crazy numbers, almost 200,000 fans to be precise.

And again it is Brazil, home to some of the most fanatical fans the game has ever produced, as well as some of the most incredible players the game has ever seen, that takes the top spot.

It is lucky for us, and even luckier for Brazilians, that the Maracana Stadium is so huge. A staggering 199,854 fans managed to squeeze themselves into the stadium to see who would be named as world champions.

Unlike most World Cups, and indeed most club or national competitions, the 1950 World Cup was not decided by a final.

The top four teams played each other in a round-robin format, in this instance, the teams were Spain, Uruguay, Sweden, and Brazil.

By the time of Brazil vs Uruguay game, both Spain and Sweden were unable to win the tournament.

All Brazil had to do was avoid defeat in front of this record-breaking crowd, to lift the World Cup.

Not only did soccer witness its biggest attendance ever for a single game, but it also witnessed one of its biggest upsets.

Brazil were clear favorites, had home advantage, were scoring for fun, and everything seemed to be going their way.

Unfortunately for them, the Uruguayans were also playing out of their skins, having put 8 goals past Bolivia in front of a slightly less impressive 5284 fans.

They were not in the mood to simply make up the numbers.
After a nervous first half ended 0-0, Brazil took the lead early in the second half. Uruguay went on to equalize and then score the winning goal with 11 minutes to go.

Brazilian hearts were broken, and the game is still a sore point even after 70 years, Brazilians are still not sure how they lost the game.

However, what they did do was give the world its largest-ever soccer attendance, in one of the most historic stadiums, featuring one of world soccer’s most iconic teams.