MLS Cup - The Right Way
With less than 48 hours to go before the MLS Cup, let's check around the internet and see how heavily promoted the game is.... at 10:30 p.m. on December 7, 2017:
Hmmm. Surprise, surprise. Thursday Night Football. Not a whiff of MLS Cup.
Let's click the ESPN Soccer button.
Europa League. Ronaldo. U.S. vs France friendly? The only hint of MLS Cup is in the Wells Fargo ad. I'm sick of ESPN. They just laid off 150 or so people this week. Let's try FoxSports. Isn't their tagline: Where Soccer Lives.
LeBron is having an MVP-type season. Basketball Scores. Arsenal Soccer.
Let's Click the FoxSports Soccer button.
More Europa League. Let's keep scrolling down the page....about 5 stories down....
The Countdown to 2018 FIFA World Cup. Only 188 days away. Still no MLS Cup, 2 days away.
Okay. Go to FoxSports. Go to Soccer. Go to MLS.
There we go. Finally a preview for Toronto vs Seattle on Saturday.
So it's safe to say the MLS Cup is under the radar. As a matter of fact, I googled MLS Cup and searched news and the top 5 stories were from MLS itself. Two days before the Super Bowl, you are sick and tired of hearing about the Super Bowl and even your Grandma in the nursing home knows the name of the two teams playing. The day before the MLS Cup, the game is a secret between hardcore American Soccer Fans. That needs to stop in order for the game to grow.
Before MLS Cup, the game of the year in American Soccer was USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago. That important game was televised on the beIN SPORTS and Universo networks. So where can we find the Championship of North American Soccer?
ESPN and UniMás in America. Available in Canada on TSN
December 9, 2017 4:00 PM EST
The Super Bowl is on Network TV. Most of the Stanley Cup is on Network TV. The NBA Finals are on Network TV. NASCAR is on Network TV. You know what other sport has its Championship played in the afternoon, on cable? Lacrosse.
Not only did MLS muck it up with their television broadcasting choices, again ESPN is okay, I guess, but you should want as many eyeballs as possible on your championship event, that's why you go with network TV. The Cup needs to be on ABC, but let's not dwell on that, there are so many other baffling things to talk about.
If US Soccer choses to not follow the FIFA calendar, and I understand why they don't, then their season needs to end in November, not December. Somehow, MLS has their championship game nearly 3 weeks after the Grey Cup. Why am I bringing up the Canadian Football Championship? Because that game was played at a neutral site, in Ottawa, Canada, and televised on ESPN2 and TSN. The 2017 version of the MLS Cup is in Toronto, Canada. And I'm not just picking on Toronto. It doesn't make sense to play championship caliber soccer in any Northern City in December. Not Toronto, not Montreal, not Columbus, not New York City, not Chicago. If you are trying to play mind games with whiny Costa Ricans, playing in the snow is fine, but if you're trying to showcase your sport to the casual fan, you want an event.
I keep reading about how the Super Bowl is an event, that it's not even about football anymore. The halftime show, the commercials, the food, the Super Bowl party, and the corporate synergy. I, personally, like the fact that the MLS Cup is played at the home field of the team with a better record, but it's hard to prepare an event on only 9 to 10 days notice. Instead of yammering on and on about what MLS is doing wrong, let's talk about a best case scenario.
First of all, MLS needs to own a day.
Labor Day? College Football kickoff weekend.
New Year's Day? NHL's winter classic.
The Day after Thanksgiving? That should be the day. Heavily promote the day all year round. Kids are home from school, there's some college football, but you don't think of any sport owning Black Friday. My mindset is that soccer can be played in any climate, I'll play you any time, anywhere. But again, if you are aiming for corporate tie-ins, a year long promotional blitz, and capturing the casual fan, you should have a neutral-site game in warm weather cities like L.A., Houston, or Atlanta. And make it annual. Make MLS Cup synonymous with Black Friday.
You should also have some sort of halftime gimmick. Even the Grey Cup had Shania Twain a few weeks back. It doesn't even have to be a concert. MLS Cup could have a 15 minute celebrity game or skills challenge. Make the soccer loving kids of America long for the day after Thanksgiving. From the time they go back to school in the fall, they can't wait for Thanksgiving break.
....I don't know why I bother. "As the third most popular soccer league on television in its own country, MLS continues to have a ton of issues that are preventing the league from being a popular destination for TV viewers. At a time when the 2016 MLS Cup final could have been a turning point for the league, MLS is facing a crossroads. One very important question is how it can continue, if at all, to improve its TV ratings for the 2017 MLS season given that it has lost several of its stars as well as the fact that the 2017 MLS Cup final will be on ESPN."- World Soccer Talk
Don't even bring up the NFL or NBA. The MLS Cup gets minuscule numbers versus such minnows as the 2017 Grey Cup in Canada or 2017's World Baseball Classic on ESPN2.
MLS Cup ratings in 2016 were about the same in the U.S. as 2017's
For the record, I'm rooting for Toronto. I'm a big fan of Altidore and Bradley and hope they have the fire to avenge Seattle's theft of the 2016 Cup. How can you win the Cup without taking a shot on goal in regulation?