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A potential MLS experiment – that has little chance of success

Dec 28, 2012, 11:35 AM EDT

MLS 4th

I really like the concept and the spirit behind Simon Borg’s ideas on creating a destination viewing event around some holiday for Major League Soccer.

It’s a great notion to kick around. Fact is, it doesn’t hurt MLS to experiment with marketing concepts and ideas. There is little harm in testing an idea, then working it a little to see what deliverables might come.

SuperLiga is a great example. The made-from-nothing annual series that formerly pitted Mexican teams against MLS teams had a place. It was a swell idea.

Unfortunately, SuperLiga lost its purpose when CONCACAF Champions League developed into its current incarnation. So SuperLiga went away … and the fact that it came and went has left absolutely no scarring on MLS or domestic soccer.

Now, back to this notion of taking some holiday and linking it to a big MLS destination viewing day. It would be similar to, as Borg says in the piece at MLSSoccer.com, the way the “English Premier League has Boxing Day. The NFL owns Thanksgiving. The NBA has taken over Christmas Day.”

Thing is, it will never work in MLS.

Those three “events” work because those holidays share two common links: Generally speaking, families gather and stay at home during those particular holidays. And because they are smack in the middle of winter, people are usually inside, near televisions.

(And because at some point, everyone is exhausted from family, family drama, in-law tension, children screaming, etc., there’s usually a point where everyone wants to “turn off” already and not think about a darn thing. “Hey, isn’t there a game on?”)

So Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, 4th of July, these are all very different holidays. They are mostly built around outdoor activities.

Halloween? That’s about kids and trick or treat, or about big kids dressing up in crazy threads and doing a lot of things not associated with sitting around the 1020 dpi.

Black Friday? That’s the one that might have some legs.

Even there, however, Major League Soccer’s national imprint just isn’t substantial enough at this point to deliver any real traction, numbers that would make a network notice.

Like I said, applause for trying; and I suppose it never hurts to try. But color me pretty skeptical on this one.

  1. garryfish - Dec 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    How about Passover. If people don’t like like it they can pass it over :)

  2. driley715 - Dec 28, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    Black Friday belongs to college football. Florida-Florida State, Alabama-auburn and some other deep seeded rivalries that, even in years which there are no title game implications, fans are going to watch in order to see some good old fashioned hate. So that’s not gonna happen for MLS

  3. charliej11 - Dec 28, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    I think that the Holiday idea is great in theory, but pick a holiday that will work in reality…..

    The thing that MLS needs to do is grab a night of the week for a national audience.
    NBCSN did this to some extent and I LOVED the games on Friday nights. Not sure how they did but the competition is very little, maybe a meaningless basketball game early in the season and high school football in the late season.

  4. tylerbetts - Dec 28, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    I think the calendar and established sports themes are the biggest obstacles to an MLS-owned Holiday. There’s not a good fit. Fourth of July would be perfect. But baseball already owns it. As much as it can be owned for television. Labor day? The bulk of the day is spent travelling, and prime time is reserved for a marquee college football game. Black Friday? Great idea, but that weekend has become all about college football rivalries and the Friday games are a part of that culture.

    The truth is, MLS should just make it’s own Holiday. Make 1st Kick an event. Have 9 games kicking off all at the same time. That, to me, is the best option. In a parody-driven league, almost every team’s fans can talk themselves into contention on opening day. “We’re good enough to sneak into the #5 spot, and if we get hot at that time, we could take the Cup!” And, those excited supporters can FBM the day and bring along some soccer newbies either to the stadium or to watch the game.

    I’d also love the last day of the season to be a similar set-up. But, that would require the league to go with stronger simulated Pro/Rel (yes, simulated). If every game meant something to every team, that would be must-see viewing for supporters. And, they can FBM that day, too.

    • SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Dec 28, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      I really like your idea for a big last day. Play all the last games on one last day. Put it on a Friday and go toe to toe with College Football if you have to. But the playoffs are a type of pro/reg system so having teams playoffs decided on the last day would be pretty exciting. Plus if you’re team isn’t able to make the playoffs, you can hope to spend the off-season feeling at least a little more positive with a sending ending win.

      The idea of one big day is great, I just don’t think the first day has enough drama to be as compelling as seeing who gets a shot at the Cup and who doesn’t.

      • randomhookup - Dec 28, 2012 at 6:05 PM

        Not really that much college football on a Friday. If you are thinking about Black Friday, that’s so late in November you really wouldn’t want to start your playoffs after that (assuming you use the same calendar as now).

        But maybe as the date of the MLS Cup…. especially in a warm weather neutral(ish) site.

        Black Friday isn’t really that full of college games. There were 5 or so games broadcast that day (and they are all regional/conference games)… nothing like a Saturday or even January 1st. Might be a good date, because it’s not like the hardcore football fan gives a flip about soccer anyway.

  5. seaskipt - Dec 28, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    How about Easter? It is early in the MLS season so all the teams are still in contention. It is also a family oriented holiday- during the afternoon people are resting from early morning Easter Egg Hunts. Easter is also reasonably cool in most MLS markets. While the date of Easter changes from year to year, people will know to turn on MLS after a few seaons.

  6. baseballbarrister - Dec 28, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    I tend to agree with the article, but I’ve never understood why every single MLS team isn’t playing the day after the MLB All-star game. There is literally nothing else going on in sports that day.

  7. scottp11 - Dec 28, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    I think there is no right answer. But I would like to see NBC Networks getting creative with double-billing a marquee Prem league match (9, 10 or 11am EST) then following it with a marquee MLS right afterwards. Putting the two side-by-side, I think, will help it out some in terms of watch-ability, ease, ratings, education and so on.

    Now will NBC actually do that on NBC mothership? Who knows. Also, what about the West coast viewers? Idk either!

    I just have a hard time with all these Prem US fans (and it’s growing) who are so standoffish about the MLS. Like they won’t even watch it for a minute, not even their nearby club. It’s just odd to not want to support something that needs supporting, that’s local and NEEDS you.

  8. ndnut - Dec 28, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    ESPN has done this with Independence Day the past couple years. Night games don’t really work. What if First Kick was always Easter Sunday? That seems like a fun tradition and playing more snow games would be more fun and “American” in my opinion.

    • thekingofnorway - Dec 29, 2012 at 10:21 AM

      Easter moves around on the calendar — it can be as early as March 22 or as late in the year as April 25. Meanwhile the MLS season has been starting earlier and earlier (this year in the first week of March) so as to fit in all the games in a very crowded season. So using Easter won’t work for setting a First Kick date, but it could work for an early-season “event” date.

  9. tackledummy1505 - Dec 28, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Are you kidding me!? St. Patty’s day is the perfect venue for a soccer holiday. 1 it’s Irish holigans who represent the core soccer fan, second most soccer fans meet at bars, and lastly family members stay at home for a big holiday feast (or at least my house). So to do a holiday that would be perfect

  10. pensfan603 - Dec 29, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    ive said it before and ill say it again the MLS can take the 4th of July. Teams like Colorado already have annual games on the date and have great results. Not to mention the england vs usa game a few years ago on 4th of july great ratings, if they did all day games from 12-10 there ratings would get a boosted im not saying it would work right away. Also they could have a headline game at 3:30 with maybe mls team vs. epl for ratings it would draw in the crowd in hopes some of them would stick around of others. On the fact that it is baseballs day, not really they play every single day what is so different about the 4th of July? nothing really, id rather watch the mls anyday. Also on that what makes Christmas in Basketball so great is because the teams play like its a playoff game and you dont see that at any other time if we could get them playing at such a high level because they know those games are so important it would be great for the sport

  11. 1022555a - Dec 29, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    You’re a media outlet. Stop knocking the sport down and build it up.

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