At 29 years old, Ulisses Gonzales, created a channel on YouTube to share his experiences related to soccer-specific MLS stadiums in the US and –  later on, as you will see, the 2022 Qatar World Cup captured by Argentina last December.

On a Sunday night, after the kids went to bed, I had little time for myself, so I searched for soccer stadium vlogs on YouTube when I came across “The Football Ronin.”

I immersed myself in his videos. The thoughts on “how did he do this?”, “Ohh, he visited that stadium that you always wanted to go” and so on came to my mind. With it, and since I cover soccer matches mainly at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, sometimes Subaru Park in Philly, and Yankee Stadium (well, not for much longer as NYCFC announced the construction of their own home, supposedly done in 2027), then why not get in contact with The Football Ronin to talk about his soccer adventures?

Why did you decide to visit all the MLS stadiums? What was the main reason? 

You know what, apart from my love for both football and travel, which I believe are the main reasons; I had come back from a 3-week trip in the UK back in late 2021, and I was fortunate to have taken in the football culture that exists to a full degree by visiting about 12, or 13 stadiums out there. It wasn’t until I was in full swing, about two weeks or so, I realized the thrill of going from stadium to stadium and absorbing the passion and culture of each place that drove me to consider doing this to a more significant extent.
The original idea was to hit places all over the UK, the birthplace of football, and all 92 stadiums registered in the top 4 divisions, but of course, me being from and living in the States, I opted for Major League Soccer, which I’m so glad I did. For it has served me great places, football, and culture, and most importantly, acted as a stepping stone to what I hope to make a career out of. And so, The Football Ronin came into existence. I have yet to look back, and I hope to keep going for as long as possible.
Could you talk a bit about the costs? Did you have any financial support to do it?

 Hmm, I mean, it’s hard to get into the costs and logistics of each trip, but I like to think, overall, me being a budget traveler, I spent about 5-6k. I mean, to be honest, I’m not in this for the money, but if I could generate some flow of income, I would more than welcome it. I am currently just working part-time and saving money.

What is the best stadium, in your opinion, and why?
The Million-Dollar Question. Goodness, how tough just ranking the 28 stadiums was and having to choose 1 out of all of them is/was insane. Luckily, I think I was able to deduce my options by taking specific criteria such as; location, design, seat, value, cleanliness/organization, and atmosphere, to name a few, and ultimately narrowing it down to 1. Drumroll…….. BC Place, up in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, is my favorite MLS stadium and a worthy venue for the 2026 WC. The location downtown is S tier (super accessible), the design both in and out is flawless (almost resembles the Etihad), my seat was killer, and for the price I paid was very much splendid and pretty clean. The bathrooms were something out of the chamber of secrets.
Apart from not carrying Guinness (like most MLS stadiums), the only other thing that would have enhanced my experience was having the stadium to its total capacity, maybe a bit more atmosphere, but that gives me another reason to come back in 4 years!

I have to ask the opposite. What was the stadium that let you down, and why?
Oooff! I don’t know if I was necessarily let down because I expected it, but Seatgeek Stadium is miles below the list. I know I should give Chicago another shot by visiting Soldier Field. However, from my experience, there was just so much off about SG. Just getting there was a complete pain, and the payout wasn’t all that great. For some odd reason, it almost felt like a market-value replica of Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX, except I was able to get in and out of there a lot quicker (take into account TS is 40 mins away from Dallas). So for sure, Seatgeek ranks last. However, to answer your question in actuality (this might turn a few heads), Providence Park is the stadium I am most disappointed by because I had high expectations for it. Don’t get me wrong, the atmosphere in Rose City, Soccer City, is like no other in the MLS, but the stadium itself let me down. Its appearance is lovely from the outside, but once inside, it becomes sad and lifeless as it doesn’t have much to offer or give that feeling of awe. Nothing against baseball, but it gave me baseball stadium vibes. It doesn’t even wrap around, which I found strange and off-putting. I hope they can either renovate it or build a new, modern fortress for their loyal fan base, who truly deserve it.

If you could rank the top 10 stadiums in the league, what would it that list look like?
10. Explorian Stadium
9. Mercedes-Benz Stadium
8. TQL Stadium
7. Geodis Park
6. Lower.com Field
5. Allianz Field
4. Q2 Stadium
3. Paypal Park
2. Red Bull Arena
1. BC Place
BC Place in Vancouver. (The Football Ronin)
Do you plan to visit St Louis City this year, as they will begin playing in the MLS?

I would love to! If it were up to me, I’d love to attend the inauguration game against Charlotte FC! It also depends on my current schedule and possible conflicting dates due to the current series. MLS is a long season, though, and I am The Football Ronin, so my bet is I’ll eventually make my way there sooner or later.

What do you think the clubs could do to enhance the match day experience for the fans?
Free Guinness for everyone! Joking aside, this Is an excellent question to which I may or may not have the answer, but here is my take. I believe clubs alike could enhance a fan’s match day experience by giving out incentives such as: cool partnerships in their cities (think free museum day), interactive entertainment, BOGO deals, reward point systems, and, or give out fan merch, food, drinks here and there.
I, for one, very much dislike the excessive use of mainstream songs, but that’s just me. Oh! There’s this one thing I loved about Subaru Park that I believed improved my match-day experience, and that was the eSports hub! I’m a big FIFA nerd, so I would easily love to see more of that or similar ideas in other MLS stadiums.
You did the same with the Qatar World Cup… How was the experience itself?
Ah, yes! You must be talking about the best World Cup ever, correct? Well, that pretty much sums it up. It was the BEST World Cup experience ever, at least from my perspective(I only have 1 for the books). With more detail, Qatar did exceed my expectations and blew my unsettled thoughts out the window as soon as I landed in the Arabian Gulf. In my opinion, everything from the hospitality, environment, atmosphere, organization, stadiums, and match quality went above and beyond.
From my experience alone and what I saw daily, everything was spectacular. Controversial or not, I supported the beautiful game, so I knew best to respect their laws and ways of life. I hope I am wrong, and this will not be the best World Cup ever, but it will be a tough act to beat (well, at least being able to visit every stadium without catching a flight was very nice).

Any other soccer adventures in mind?
Gustavo, my dear, dear friend. This is simply the beginning of the adventure. As I type this, I plan the current series I am working on: Liga MX in Mexico. I see this project as a long-term, long commitment ordeal (if I can continue to fund this somehow and stay in good health). I have decided to sacrifice a lot to achieve my dreams and hope to continue for as long as I have to (hoping 10–15 years). Keep an eye out for upcoming content! I do want to send my thanks to you for giving me this platform and opportunity to speak. I appreciate your recognition and for taking your time and interest in me and this project. My door is always open. However, my home is temporary, for I am Ronin, The Football Ronin.
Ulisses displays his banner at Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar
(Photos/The Football Ronin)

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Jornalista, moro nos Estados Unidos desde 2006. Gosto de viajar com a família, conhecer estádios e arenas. MLS é o futuro e eu posso provar!

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