When the 2012 MLS schedule was announced back in January, there were a couple of questions for many fans. Most notably, two games on July 18 were set to begin at 1 pm in their respective timezones. At the time, it seemed possible that those early start times on a weekday were just placeholders for the real start times, but six months have passed and the schedule remains unchanged.
The New York Red Bulls will host the Chicago Fire Wednesday at 1 pm ET (that's 10 am PDT), followed by Chivas USA hosting the Portland Timbers at 1 pm PDT. In addition, Wednesday will feature five other league matches, none starting earlier than 4 pm PDT, and a friendly between the Seattle Sounders and Chelsea. It is a packed day of soccer in America, and it's great to see the schedule expand to encompass an entire day.
But who will watch that full day of soccer? I suppose it is somewhat easier in the Eastern Time Zone, as they have the bulk of the matches long after the work day is over, but seriously, what is up with this scheduling? Why on Earth are the Red Bulls and Chivas USA hosting 1 pm games in the middle of the week on a non-holiday?In looking for an explanation, I scoured the Chivas USA website, and found that they are promoting Wednesday's game as "Kids Day Out." On one hand, I am an adult and so I wouldn't be the target demographic for such a promotion, but considering I follow this team very closely and have barely heard anything about it, means it isn't being promoted particularly well. Sure, there's a bizarre video of Marky Delgado sharing "Kids Facts" although the entire video lasts all of 19 seconds and Delgado looks like somebody threw a camera in front of him and said "Here kid! Read this cue card!"
If the team is planning on filling the Home Depot Center Wednesday with kids, that's great. I'm not somebody who thinks MLS needs to ignore kids as a fanbase in order to establish some credibility. But while I'm assuming some youth soccer teams, day camps and church groups will get ticket packages and come to the HDC, I don't think there will be anything closely approximating a sellout, nor do I anticipate anything remotely approaching the 12,000-14,000 range that most matches have been attracting. How does this help the attitudes surrounding Chivas? Anybody watching the game will likely see the stands with many empty seats, and it will fuel the perception that Chivas has no fans. Is it a coincidence that Chivas and the Red Bulls, two teams that have difficulty getting sell-outs that are also not in Texas, are the ones hosting the early matches? My mind keeps running over a hypothetical bit, in which the other 17 teams in the league unclicked WEEKDAY, EARLY AFTERNOON as one of the reasonable options for the 2012 schedule in a survey sent out last year before the league started making the schedule. It probably is nothing remotely close to the truth, but it would at least help explain the factors that led to such a poor decision.
The best case scenario on Wednesday? The kids are whipped up into a Chivas USA frenzy akin to the women and children who attended a Fenerbahce match in Turkey after men were banned from the stadium for crowd problems. But what is more likely? Kids will scarf down junk food, getting sugar highs, and then get cranky and drowsy in the sun.
Did I mention the sun? Although MLS could have picked a worse place in the league to host a daytime match, it isn't exactly going to be comfortable for most watchers. If kids are indeed the target audience for this match, I'm sure sitting in hard plastic chairs in the sun for more than 2 hours while getting a sugar high then crash is going to go swimmingly.
And this doesn't even address the other issue at hand. Although we all come from all walks of life, I'd wager that a large proportion of Chivas USA fans will have to work during the match. They won't be able to come to the game, to bring their families, or watch on TV. Why schedule a game in which it will be impossible for many to attend or even keep track of on TV? I doubt this will help the local TV ratings.
If MLS had scheduled a 1 pm match, it is a no-brainer: the day needs to be a weekend or a holiday. Wednesday is neither, and hosting a match at a thoroughly inaccessible hour on a weekday is a terrible blunder. Let's hope Chivas win on Wednesday, that more than 2,000 people show up, and that MLS never tries this schedule again.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!