In what has become a Black Friday tradition here at B&RU, we’re re-running a post by Martin Shatzer, our site’s founder, that originally appeared in this space in 2010. Even with the league going through a lot of changes over the last six years, his argument still has a lot of merit.
How will you spend your day today? Maybe do some shopping in the morning. Maybe play a little touch football in the afternoon. Maybe sit around the house looking for a movie to watch on TV in the evening.
I've got a proposal that would make the Day After Thanksgiving an Event. Appointment television for the whole continent to watch.
Like Thanksgiving is an Event for the NFL, like New Years Eve is an Event for college football, like New Years Day is an Event for the NHL, the Day After Thanksgiving should be an Event for MLS. It should be the date for MLS Cup 2011.
Think about it. Everybody is off work, everybody is looking for something to do, yet there are no sports on the calendar besides a few college basketball games, hockey games, and maybe one big college football game in the afternoon. The evening is essentially wide open. I was watching the Maryland Terrapins take on the powerhouse team that is the Elon Phoenix last night. I could have been watching MLS Cup instead.
Major League Soccer has already announced that the league is expanding to a 34-game schedule next year, and that it is adding two more teams to the playoffs. Starting the season earlier seems to be imperative. Holding the Final five days later on the Day After Thanksgiving should be an obvious choice as well.
The TV ratings for MLS Cup were down 44% this year. There's a lot of good reasons for that. No marquee teams, no marquee players, no significant storylines. But another good reason was the fact that it featured two mid-market soccer teams on ESPN, and was going against two major-market football teams on NBC. If you're a casual sports fan, the NFL wins every time.
Hold the MLS Cup Final on the following Friday, the Day After Thanksgiving, every year and let that sink into the heads of the casual sports fans. Just as we're all becoming used to the idea of watching Hockey Played Outside on New Years Day every year, we will become used to the idea of watching an Important Soccer Match on the Day After Thanksgiving every year.
When the casual sports fan turns on Sportscenter when he wakes up that Friday morning because he doesn't get the NFL Network or fell asleep too early to see the result of that game last night, he should be presented with an MLS Cup preview. He'll be watching football highlights and then suddenly, boom, there's that British guy! I remember his voice from the World Cup! What's he talking about? There's a Championship game on tonight? I haven't watched soccer in months, but I'm not doing anything tonight, so I just might watch that.
It could be yours, MLS. It's there for the taking. And then you won't have to worry about packing the Expansion Draft into a short week either.
This column originally ran on Nov. 27, 2010. The original can be found here.