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Rose Bowl sets attendance record as MLS game replaces Pasadena’s July 4 fireworks tradition

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  • Orange Country residents Dettmer and Heath family members enjoy tacos...

    Orange Country residents Dettmer and Heath family members enjoy tacos and beverages during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • The band Vinyl Jam performs during the “El Trafíco” pregame...

    The band Vinyl Jam performs during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • The band Vinyl Jam performs during the “El Trafíco” pregame...

    The band Vinyl Jam performs during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • Van Nuys resident Brandon Schroeder, center, reacts to the camera...

    Van Nuys resident Brandon Schroeder, center, reacts to the camera while wearing an American flag jumpsuit during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • Evelyn Diaz grills a variety of meats during the “El...

    Evelyn Diaz grills a variety of meats during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • A Hello Kitty stuffed toy wearing a LAFC shirt is...

    A Hello Kitty stuffed toy wearing a LAFC shirt is placed next to an American flag during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • Whittier resident Jayleen Venegas takes a nap during the “El...

    Whittier resident Jayleen Venegas takes a nap during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • Los Angeles resident John Smith, left, plays a game of...

    Los Angeles resident John Smith, left, plays a game of one touch with friends during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • Arcadia resident William Duriez plays a large sized version of...

    Arcadia resident William Duriez plays a large sized version of Connect Four with a friend during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • Deborah Dettmer enjoys a beverage during the “El Trafíco” pregame...

    Deborah Dettmer enjoys a beverage during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • Long Beach residents David Gradias, left, and Roxanne Vasquez take...

    Long Beach residents David Gradias, left, and Roxanne Vasquez take a selfie during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

  • Asuza resident Mason Serna, 5, plays with a soccer ball...

    Asuza resident Mason Serna, 5, plays with a soccer ball during the “El Trafíco” pregame tailgate event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday, July 4, 2023. The match between the LA Galaxy and LAFC is sold out and is estimated to break the MLS attendance record. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr., Contributing Photographer)

A record-breaking throng of soccer fans was expected at the Rose Bowl stadium Tuesday for the MLS cross-town rivalry match between the LA Galaxy and Los Angeles FC — a rivalry wryly dubbed El Trafico — which replaced Pasadena’s traditional July 4 AmericaFest fireworks show for the first time in almost a century.

The Galaxy announced on Monday that more than 80,000 fans were expected at the game, a Major League Soccer record. The sold-out event was a rematch from the 2022 Western Conference Semifinal, which reigning champs LAFC took 2-1.

The match which was originally scheduled for Feb. 25 as the teams’ 2023 season opener but was postponed due to weather. Entering the game, the teams were facing very different trajectories, with LAFC headed for the playoffs, while the Galaxy neared the bottom of the conference.

The Rose Bowl’s shift away from the AmericaFest fireworks show this Independence Day comes after years of financial decline for the stadium, exacerbated by the pandemic and debt obligations, as well poor attendance at last year’s fireworks show, which resulted in a roughly $500,000 loss, Rose Bowl Operating Company General Manager Jens Weiden said.

The teams’ 20th El Trafico matchup, on the other hand, is expected to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

The move is part of an evolving strategy that will look to lean more heavily on music festivals, golf, and new ticketing agreements to right the ship, as the stadium faces long term obstacles like increased venue competition, uncertainty over the College Football Playoff, and capital challenges.

Last year, the stadium projected facing a $19 million net loss by the end of fiscal year 2027. Updated estimates from Feb. show an improved outlook, with the stadium now forecasted to end the year with a $10 million balance, rather than the $6 million projected last year.

Weiden noted that the Galaxy previously played home games at the Rose Bowl stadium from 1996 to 2002, when they won their first title, making it more of a return to a team tradition.

Despite the decision not to host the AmericaFest this year, there were still explosive moments, both on and off the pitch. Rialto-based company Pyro Spectaculars, who has put on the July 4th showcase for decades, scheduled a fireworks show at the adjacent Brookside Golf Course following the match.

The previous MLS attendance record was also set at a Galaxy game, when they visited Charlotte FC for their inaugural game at Bank of America Stadium last year.

Here’s the previous top five, according to MLS:

  1. 74,479: LA Galaxy-Charlotte, March 5, 202273,019: Atlanta-Portland, Dec. 8, 201872,548: LA Galaxy-Atlanta, Aug. 3, 201972,243: Seattle-Atlanta vs. Seattle, July 15, 201872,035: DC-Atlanta, March 11, 2018

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