Top 10 Can't Miss Stadiums in MLS

Major League Soccer has come along way from the days of playing games at cavernous American football stadiums. Ever since the first MLS soccer specific stadium was built in Columbus there's been a building boom happening and it seems like every other year a new stadium is being debut. Add to this the boom in expansion teams and it seems like MLS is on the right path to finally being able to take full commercial advantage of what it means to own a football club.

For the fan this not only means that there's a better chance their club with stick a around for decades to come, but the experience of being at a match is now enhanced. If you were at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, CA 15 years ago, you might have noticed how narrow the field was. Or maybe been a Giants Stadium and, in certain instances, not be able to see someone execute a corner kick because of the bowl shape of the stands.You might even to deal with security, who was not trained or controlled by the clubs, meant that at any point you might be tossed out from something as simple as standing.

Our maps show where stadiums are located in the world and so we thought why not rate them to give fans a better idea of what it's like to attend a game in them. We have a 1-10 scale rating system based on these criteria:

Location/Access - How easy it is to get to for most the club's fans base and major city population.
Game Day Experience - This includes things like atmosphere, sightlines, and concessions.
Design - This one is a bit objective but we are looking for originality here and a unique sense of place.
Relevancy - Big important moments have taken place here that have helped grow the league.

 

10. Mapfre Stadium - Columbus Crew

 Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Location: 6
Game Day Experience: 5
Design: 3
Relevancy: 10
Total: 6

We had to include the original SSS here because of how important this stadium was. If it wasn't for the Hunt family building this stadium, the rest of the MLS owners might have not seen how important it is to control your own destiny and take big calculated risks. This ushered in all the MLS 1.0 stadiums like Toyota Park and the Home Depot Center that came shortly after. Also let's not forget the incredibly important US National Team matches that have taken place here. It's helped it become the "unofficial" home of the USMNT.

 

9. Avaya Stadium - San Jose Earthquakes

 Source: sjearthquakes.com

Source: sjearthquakes.com

Location: 6
Game Day Experience: 8
Design: 7
Relevancy: 3
Total: 6

Ok like everything in CA, location is always tricky because of sprawl. But this one is particularly underwhelming because it's next to a major airport. So you might end up hearing planes taking off and landing as the game goes on. You definitely get used to it but it probably wasn't the best place to put the stadium. Anyways, the good thing about this place is the amenities. Being so close to the famed silicon valley means this stadium is tricked out with all sorts of tech. From super fast wi-fi to a mobile app there was nothing spared at this stadium. Plus there's a giant bar at the north end that forced us to give this place a great game day experience rating.

 

8. BBVA Compass Stadium - Houston Dynamo

 Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Location: 10
Game Day Experience: 5
Design: 8
Relevancy: 3
Total: 6.5

This gem of a stadium's location is at good as it gets. Practically in downtown Houston next to the other city's venues for ease of access. It also boasts a unique outside facade that makes the building a bit special. Unfortunately that's the only thing that this place has going for it. The team has been in a bit of a slump in recent years and the fanbase isn't as enthusiastic as it once was. Hopefully their fortunes turn around to propel this place up the list.

 

7. Stade Saputo - Montreal Impact

 Source: impactmontreal.com

Source: impactmontreal.com

Location: 8
Game Day Experience: 8
Design: 7
Relevancy: 3
Total: 6.5

The best way to describe the look of the stadium is a "mini" Bombonera. Not so much in its iconic status, but the fact that it's missing two corners. With a good location within the city of Montreal, and boisterous fan base, Stade Saputo can resemble some of the best terraces in Europe at times. And let's not forget that bell! Still a relatively new stadium so not to many important matches have occurred here yet. Time will tell if this reaches the iconic status of its Argentine counterpart.

 

6. BMO Field - Toronto FC

 Source: USA Today Sports Images

Source: USA Today Sports Images

Location: 8
Game Day Experience: 7
Design: 7
Relevancy: 4.5
Total: 6.625

This is a classic case of a stadium morphing itself to greatness. When it first opened this stadium was nothing more than a few bleachers and weird north stand with what looked like a stripmall. But with the recent renovations the place is now looking pretty good with the new roofs that help contain the crazy TO fans. The location is also very good with close proximity to downtown, although still a bit removed from a neighborhood.

 

5. Stub Hub Center - LA Galaxy

 Source: LAGalaxy.com

Source: LAGalaxy.com

Location: 6
Game Day Experience: 8
Design: 6
Relevancy: 7
Total: 6.75

While Mapfre Stadium was the first MLS soccer specific stadium, the SHC(or Home Depot Center as it was known then) was the first one to take stadium building seriously. For a while this was the premier stadium in MLS by which others were to be judged(RB Arena is that now). The design of the place is very bland. The only real architectural redeeming quality it has is the iconic roof along the sidelines. But nothing beats sitting in perfect weather watching soccer all year round. The fans also tend to make this an enjoyable place to be, but they tend to be pretty spotty with the support. This is "laid back LA" after all. The location is pretty average at best, but what isn't in LA? It's also become an "unofficial" home to the USNT both because of its great year round weather and great training facilities.

 

4. CenturyLink Field - Seattle Sounders

 Source: SoundersFC.com

Source: SoundersFC.com

Location: 10
Game Day Experience: 8
Design: 4
Relevancy: 5
Total: 6.75

Ok so I know what you're saying, "A football stadium?". In this case the stadium is irrelevant here and it's all about location and atmosphere. Perhaps nowhere else in the continent can fans take a half empty football stadium and make it sound full. The tifo, the loud atmosphere, the march-ins, the Seattle skyline, all add up to make you forget that you're in a gigantic American football stadium. This place is also home to astroturf so we had to subtract a few points for that, but Its location is one of the best in MLS being practically a few blocks from Downtown Seattle.

 

3. Children's Mercy Park - Sporting Kansas City

 Source: SportingKC.com

Source: SportingKC.com

Location: 6
Game Day Experience: 8
Design: 8
Relevancy: 6
Total: 7

Let's be honest here. The KC Wiz at Arrowhead had some of the worst atmospheres in all of soccer. Their fan base was pretty much non-existent, but that all ended when the new ownership built this gem of a stadium. Now SKC, has some of the most vocal supporters and have made CMP one of the more intimidating places to play. Catapulting the team to a championship in 2013. It's a nice intimate stadium that took its look from the MLS 2.0 stadia and added upon it, by including roofing on all stands rather than just on the sidelines. One draw back is thats its pretty far from the city center.

 

2. Red Bull Arena - NY Red Bulls

 Source: NewYorkRedBulls.com

Source: NewYorkRedBulls.com

Location: 9
Game Day Experience: 9
Design: 8
Relevancy: 7
Total: 8.25

Yes this is "way out" in NJ, but it's probably closer to a larger population of fans than any other stadium. With all sorts of rail lines close by, it's a breeze to get to if you know what you're doing. While it had some gameday issues when it first opened it's been slowly improving its game day experience, not to mention it's home to the oldest and one of the loudest supporters club in the nation. The importance of the building itself comes in the design and size of the building. It broke the mold of the "minor league" stadium designs most of the stadiums had before it. And thus made it a unique place to be both outside and inside the stadium...errr Arena.

 

1. Providence Park - Portland Timbers

 Source: PortlandTimbers.com

Source: PortlandTimbers.com

Location: 10
Game Day Experience: 10
Design: 8
Relevancy: 8
Total: 9

At first glance this place looks like a baseball diamond. And that's because it was! But the Timbers have upgraded, remodeled and flipped the structure to become a soccer first experience. Its many transformations have given it a unique DYI look. It's not shiny, it's not sleek, but it does the job very well. So perhaps it's the best home for the blue collar and "hipstery" fans of Portland. We did, however, have to deduct at least one design point for the field turf though(we hate that stuff). Game Day experience here is second to none. And let's be real here, the fans are what give this place a 10. With elaborate tifo displays, Timber Joey slicing the log, and overall crowd atmosphere makes this a great place to watch a match. The stadium even has a bit of USNT history hosting important matches for both the Men's and Women's teams.

 

Worst 3

Yankee Stadium - NYC FC
Baseball stadium? Just no. Go to a Yankee game if you want to see this stadium.
RFK - DC United
Location is ok, but scored terribly on everything else. Wear a hard hat.
Gillette Stadium - New England Revolution
Bad location, even worse game day experience. Avoid at all costs.
 

What do you think of this list? Did we leave anyone out? Which new stadiums will top this list this year?