The past 19 editions of MLS Cup have yielded plenty of brilliant soccer memories. But the season-ending championship game has also boasted plenty of pomp, circumstance and only-in-America pageantry, too.
The nearly two decades’ worth of participants reads like who’s-who of North American soccer. But when it comes to pre-game and halftime entertainment, it also reads like something of a who’s-who of performing stars, almost-stars and, “oh yeah, where are they now” types.
In honor of Throwback Thursday (#TBT) vibes, let’s take a look at some of the notable national-anthem and halftime performers of MLS Cup finals past. You may recall them fondly, not so clearly or just, you know, with a sense of nostalgia for when you were a little bit younger.
JoJo’s original claim to fame was the massive hit “Leave (Get Out),” released in 2004, when she was just 14. A bunch of label drama ensued over the years, but by the late ‘00s, Jojo was back at performing and releasing unofficial bits and pieces of material.
In 2011, she became relevant with young adults again thanks to a remix/cover of Drake’s song “Marvin’s Room.” It’s also the same year she performed at MLS Cup.
(Other fun JoJo-and-soccer facts: She was linked romantically with Freddy Adu from 2005 to 2006, and in the music video for "Too Little Too Late," her love interest was played by eventual D.C. United player Mike Zaher, with multiple UCLA players, including Kyle Nakazawa and Sal Zizzo, participating in the shoot.)
Placido Domingo (2007)
Yup, the opera great actually sang the national anthem that year. Legit.
Jimmy Eat World (2007)
Maybe 2007 was the most bonkers year for MLS Cup entertainment. Not only did Placido Domingo kick things off, Jimmy Eat World, the band behind the canonized pop-punk-whatever classic “The Middle,” performed at halftime. This time around, though, they played "Big Casino."
The Click Five (2005)
Remember when straight-ahead power-pop rock bands could score radio hits? It wasn’t so long ago. Perhaps, then, you remember The Click Five, who had kind of a mod vibe. Here they are at MLS Cup halftime in 2005, performing “Catch Your Wave,” the (less successful) follow up to their Top 20 hit that same year, “Just the Girl.”
More or less forgotten by most mainstream music listeners by now, in the mid-‘00s, Switchfoot were one of those Christian rock acts who managed to deftly duck into secular active-rock radio. They’re still active and popular in the Christian scene, but you probably remember them most from about 10 years ago.
Anyways, they performed the song “Dare You To Move,” their second Top 20 hit, at halftime of MLS Cup 2004. All evidence has basically been scrubbed from the internet, so just trust us on this one. It happened, OK?
Here’s the song, anyways.
Michelle Branch (2003)
The early 2000s were kind of good for female singer-songwriter types. Branch had a huge hit in 2002 with “All You Wanted” (click here if you want a nostalgic earworm stuck all day). The next year, she followed up with “Breathe,” which she performed at MLS Cup halftime. Remember this one?
Christina Aguilera (1999)
A then-teenaged, budding-star Aguilera was just escaping her genie bottle in 1999. That year, she both released her debut album and performed at MLS Cup halftime. Here's a photo of her that day. Ah, they were much more innocent times regarding eyeshadow and lipstick color combos.
Alexi Lalas (1996)
Oh yes — Lalas himself sang the national anthem, in the pouring rain, to mark the first-ever MLS Cup final. The footage is sadly mostly lost to the winds of time, but here’s some photographic evidence via Twitter.
I’d just performed the national anthem and thankfully had avoided being electrocuted. https://t.co/uaNAMXqmKA— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) July 3, 2015