The world record attendance for a women’s sporting event has been broken – and by the most unlikely of candidates.
A college volleyball game between Nebraska Cornhuskers and Omaha might not necessarily strike you as the hottest sporting ticket in town, but students love their NCAA sport in America and the gigantic Memorial Stadium in Nebraska boasts a capacity in excess of 92,000.
And that’s just about how many people crammed into the rafters – 92,003 to be exact – to watch the hosts defeat their visitors in what must have been a particularly lively atmosphere given the numbers watching on.
Incredibly, there’s eight college sports stadiums in the United States with a capacity of more than 100,000, including the gigantic Michigan Stadium that can cater for up to 107,000 patrons.
So, it’s not impossible that the record attendance for a women’s sporting event may well be broken yet again in the near future.
The Previous Record: Barcelona vs Wolfsburg
With the iconic Camp Nou currently undergoing renovation work, the Barcelona men’s team are playing their home games at the city’s Olympic Stadium while the women’s side have reverted back to their Estadi Johan Cruyff home.
But when Barcelona Femeni were handed the keys to the Nou Camp for a Champions League game against Wolfsburg in 2022, all manner of attendance records were broken.
A whopping 91,648 people packed into the venue to watch the game, which at the time was the record attendance for a women’s sporting event. To enhance the celebratory mood, Barcelona won 5-1 courtesy of goals from Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas and Jenni Hermoso, who hit the headlines in the summer of 2023 when she was the victim of ‘kiss-gate’ involving the head of the Spanish FA, Luis Rubiales.
Besting Themselves: Barcelona vs Real Madrid
The previous record, also set by the fans of Barcelona Femeni, lasted less than a month.
They had set that in the previous round of their 2021/22 Champions League campaign, although it wasn’t just any old game – that quarter-final pitted the Catalan giants against their sworn El Clasico rivals in Real Madrid.
As would be the case in the semis, Barcelona swept all before them to send the mammoth 91,533 crowd home happy. They had won the first leg of the tie 3-1, but any notion that they would stroll to victory was quickly forgotten when Real breezed into a 2-1 lead at Camp Nou.
But Barca powered back into the lead and completed a commanding 5-2 victory. Putellas was on the scoresheet again, as were Aitana Bonmati, Caroline Graham Hansen, Claudia Pina and Mapi Leon to cap a historic night for the club.
“This has been utterly magical,” Putellas said afterwards.
“When the match finished, the fans simply didn’t want to go home, there was such a connection between them and us while we celebrated. I saw a lot of girls, children with that spark in their eyes.”
And Hansen the soothsayer revealed:
“This is just too crazy. If we are having fun, people will want to repeat it.”
And they would, just three weeks later for the semi-final.
The Trend-Setter: USA vs China
The previous attendance record for a women’s sporting event had stood for 23 years.
That was the final of the football World Cup between the United States and China in July 1999, with 90,185 fans bursting through the turnstiles at the Pasadena Stadium in California.
In some ways, America is the spiritual home of women’s football – it was the country where the sport really enjoyed mainstream prominence first. Some ten games saw attendances of 50,000 or more – a rarity even for the men’s World Cup – with the final drawing that record-breaking crowd.
What’s more, it’s thought that a staggering 40 million people tuned in to the game on TV in the USA alone – an extraordinary figure at a time when women’s football was still in its infancy as a major sport.
All told, four games at the tournament witnessed attendances of 75,000 or more, which explains why the World Cup of 1999 dominated the list of biggest crowds at a women’s sporting event for many years.
Breaking the Mould: Australia vs India
Cricket makes a rare foray onto the list with the final of the women’s T20 World Cup in 2020, which was played between the host nation Australia and India.
The legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground was selected as the venue for the big game, and cricket fans from across Australia would pack into the MCG in their droves – 86,174 of them, to be precise.
And that huge crowd would go home happy, save for any India supporters in attendance, with some huge hitting from the iconic Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney carrying the Aussies to a comfortable victory and a fifth World Cup title.