SmorgasBorg: Which holiday can MLS claim as its own?
The English Premier League has Boxing Day. The NFL owns Thanksgiving. The NBA has taken over Christmas Day.
But is there a US holiday (sorry, Canada) that MLS can make its own?
Perhaps. But it’s not enough to merely schedule matches on a given holiday. MLS would have to come up with something bigger and better than the other pro sports to permanently identify with one of the holidays that still lay unclaimed. Here are five ideas:
#5 – Cinco de Mayo: Yeah, it's not a holiday, but we still celebrate it in the US.
There are the occasional clever promotions that you’ll find among the leagues that are in-season during the first week of May. But MLS has the chance to really stand out like the others can’t. However, they would need a hand from their rivals.
Opportunity: What if this was the day to invite our soccer brethren from South of the Border for a one-day extravaganza of MLS vs. Liga MX? Up to 15 one-off matches played across the US, Canada and Mexico that would determine to the best league in North America. It may not really issue a definitive verdict, but it would sure make for great fun and drama to find out who’s best on the day. And maybe even some big-time prize money to make it worth everyone's while.
#4 – Memorial Day: With Labor Day essentially representing the unofficial launch of throw-ball season, a focus on Memorial Day weekend could make the most sense for MLS with an event that has the potential to strike at the chord of national pride.
Opportunity: MLS could decide to move the All-Star Game from that midweek slot in late July during what is often a hectic international schedule and instead take over Memorial Day weekend with a match against one of the major champions of Europe (or perhaps the UEFA Champions League winner), who would just be coming off their league triumph.
Many would argue that the traveling Euro opponent would stumble over to the states still hung over from their title celebrations. But who cares? I call it striking while the iron is hot. And the American fan looking to schedule a long weekend around soccer would jump at this opportunity with enough advance notice.
#3 – Independence Day: Some MLS clubs already own July 4 on the local level with the LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids proving regular hosts. And the games sell out.
Once upon a time baseball was somewhat of a July 4 tradition. Not recently. That’s where MLS comes in.
Opportunity: With the entire nation taking the day off, this is when you want to put your best foot forward. So what if the much-discussed Rivalry Weekend actually takes place in a one-day marathon on July 4?
#2 – Halloween: If you think supporters are colorful during regular matchdays, imagine what the best MLS fans could do on Halloween.
Opportunity: But what transcendental on-field competition could MLS offer on Halloween that would capture the imagination of sports fans? Easy. Sudden-death, single-elimination, Knockout Round matches. But not just one or two of them. How about four of them (two from each conference).
Sure, it would take another tweak to the playoff format, but it would be madness across the continent.
#1 – Black Friday: There may be some random college football action sprinkled around the tube on the day after Thanksgiving, but for the most part it’s typically a day of respite heading into the weekend with no real appointment viewing apart from the video of people running through store doors at obscene hours.
Opportunity: Make the MLS Cup final a Black Friday fixture and adjust the playoff schedule to make it fit. A great way for fans to debut that brand new HDTV they woke up really early to buy. It's the perfect mix of a big event, an easy marketing message and a commercial tie-in.
Sports fans would never ever have to look at a calendar again to know when the single, marquee soccer event in all the land is held. The perfect holiday, if you're a soccer fan.