NEW YORK, N.Y. (Friday, Aug. 7, 2020) – Prior to the highly-anticipated championship match presented by Wells Fargo of the MLS is Back Tournament on Tuesday, Aug. 11 on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, Major League Soccer provided an update on how the league has reimagined the fan experience from home.
More than 15,000 fans participated in virtual fan parties throughout the Group Stage presented by Heineken and the Knockout stage presented by Audi, and those numbers continue to increase leading to the championship game. MLS legends like Kaka, Benny Feilhaber, Tony Sanneh, Tim Howard and current Minnesota United star defender Ike Opara have joined the festivities. All 24 participating clubs had live shots of their virtual watch parties featured in the broadcast.
Customized for each club and curated for each broadcast, the giant augmented reality virtual video boards are programmed live by an Emmy Award-winning producer, John Brenkus, who acts as an exclusive “Fan DJ” for every match. The AR video boards feature fans, game stats, curated social media posts, unique club animations, club stadium traditions and more. Everything is programmed live to allow fans to react to what is going on during the game and to connect fans to the broadcast.
“The MLS is Back Tournament final will mark 51 games and 35 days of soccer celebrations featuring our passionate fans,” said Chris Schlosser, SVP Media. “In MLS’ return to play, we took the opportunity of this unique tournament and setting to experiment with cutting edge virtual and augmented reality technology to engage fans watching at home. The interactive fan integrations have never been done at this level or scale before, and they have been a huge hit.”
A highlight of the virtual fan rooms are the in-stadium fan rituals that have been adapted to the digital setting (songs, chants and scarfing moments). MLS broadcasts have featured interviews and live hits directly from the room and spotlighted former players and celebrity fans such as Seattle Sounders owner Drew Carey, LAFC fan and actor Colin Hanks, and Portland Timbers Mascot Timber Joey, among others.
Throughout the tournament, fans used hashtag #MLSisBack on Twitter to submit pictures and videos to be featured on the A/R Screens in Orlando. MLS and Twitter also partnered for the semi-final and final match to give fans a chance to “own” the giant virtual blue wall running alongside the field. During the first half, fans can post messages of support on Twitter for their team, and the fan base with the most posts wins control of the giant wall for the second half.
For the championship match presented by Wells Fargo on Aug. 11, a professional artist representing each team will create a unique mural during the 90 mins of our final game. Fans will provide key information to inspire what is being created. Clubs will work with their supporters to design a virtual Tifo that will be displayed on the videoboards. This will be the first of its kind and will celebrate the culture of the two cities competing in the showcase game.
MLS is also partnering with Facebook to program the Sports on Facebook story for a week-long takeover of the MLS is Back Tournament. MLS will provide Sports of Facebook followers with a behind-the-scenes look at all of the action in Orlando.
Throughout the tournament, clubs have also creatively enabled fans to come together and watch the games live all while staying apart in local markets. Clubs hosted 24 watch parties including drive-in events, staged inside stadiums (New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium) and at makeshift drive-in movie style theatres (Chicago Fire FC, Los Angeles Galaxy, Orlando City SC).
Fans may tweet their photos and videos to #MLSisBack to be featured on the videoboards, the live broadcast, and on MLSSoccer.com. For more information on how fans can support their clubs and join the nightly soccer celebration, visit MLSsoccer.com. For B-Roll of the virtual fan rooms, click HERE.
About Major League Soccer
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer – celebrating its 25th Season in 2020 – features 26 clubs throughout the United States and Canada, in addition to future expansion teams in Austin, St. Louis, Sacramento, and Charlotte. For more information about MLS, visit www.MLSsoccer.com.