The day after the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is generally regarded as the worst day in sports. None of the big four leagues ever have any games, golf tournaments don’t start until the next day, tennis is coming off Wimbledon. There’s pretty much nothing going on.
That’s why it’s the perfect opportunity for American soccer to take center stage and play a full slate of games every year. Make it the MLS equivalent to Boxing Day. Do it big. Market the hell out of it. Call it something hyperbolic, like “The Most Exciting Day of the Year” or something. Ask your national TV partners to play ball. ESPN has the ESPYs or something going on, but they still have ESPN2 and streaming channels. Either way, NBC Sports Network should be good for at least one nationally televised contest.
This year, there’s one match featuring two Canadian teams that is nationally televised in Canada (good, good) and two U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
In addition to (or perhaps even in place of, as it would be much easier logistically) MLS matches, it would be fantastic publicity for the U.S. Open Cup to make it work out so the final of the event takes place on this “dark” day. The 2012 final is set for either August 7 or 8, so it would probably take a little bit of finagling, but it would be worth it.
This is a competition that is clearly important to the fans, even if the federation doesn’t seem too bothered with it. This would be a fantastic way to get the aforementioned TV networks or even Fox Soccer (you remember, the one that shows Sky Sports News? The one that used to have all the games?) to pick up the cup final and not only make sure that it gets some television eyeballs, but also ends up on the next day’s highlight shows. Because really, did anybody see the MLB All-Star Game? They’re not getting much content out of that clunker.
MLS does gain some credit for wise scheduling this year. For the most part, they’ve managed to avoid major sporting events in both the soccer community (UEFA Champions League Final, Euros though that would’ve taken a pretty intentional effort to schedule a match during) and non-soccer community (the NCAA Final Four among other events).
Why bother making this happen? Because it pretty much guarantees publicity. The “grow the league!!!!!!!!” mantra certainly gets overblown, but this is an opportunity to make a very small change (there are already plenty of midweek games) and reap somewhat considerable reward. Add in some prestige to for the cup final, and you’ve got a winning combination.
There are a few drawbacks, number one being general logistics of the thing. The networks would have to be on board, and some years it would be difficult to make sure teams get their needed July 4 home matches in before another match on the day after the All-Star game.
But it’s a risk worth taking for a league we’ve seen make increasingly deft maneuvers as it continues to grow. At the very least, MLS, do it for the fans because they don’t have much else to do today.