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SBD/August 6, 2014/Events and Attractions
MLS All-Star Game Becoming League's Signature Event, With Weeklong Festivities
Published August 6, 2014
HERE FOR THE PARTY: In Portland, Sara DiNatale noted the city's Pioneer Courthouse Square is hosting the MLS Experience, which has been "taking over the square" every day from 12:00-9:00pm PT leading up to the game. The square has hosted "concerts, autograph sessions and DJs as part of the MLS Experience, the hub for All-Star week activity" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/3). Also in Portland, Matthew Kish noted corporate sponsors have hosted "dozens of events" around the match. adidas on Saturday had a brand-sponsored "replica of Providence Park in Pioneer Square," while Nike hosted a "soccer-like street-ball tournament on a barge in the Willamette River." Sunday's activities included a "Volkswagen-sponsored bike tour of Portland," as well as a "free concert" in Waterfront Park featuring the Flaming Lips, sponsored by AT&T and Samsung. MLS has hosted an "all-day festival each day." Last night's festivities included "free access to Providence Park for the practices of the all-stars as well as Bayern Munich" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/1). A Portland OREGONIAN editorial stated the extracurricular activities "should be fun," but in the U.S., the "most effective approach to attracting casual fans has been to build a league's brand around superstars." That makes the actual All-Star game one of MLS' "most important marketing tools" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/3).
CHANNELING PORTLANDIA: ESPN FC's Graham Parker wrote the game is "only one part of a week that, at its best, showcases a club's relationship to its city." All-Star host cities such as Portland and K.C. "have in common a sense of dialogue between club and fans, particularly the millennials who are the most visible presence on the streets for the week's events." Portland has an "almost unrivaled, theatrical game-day experience within the league that will doubtlessly be showcased this week, but it also has a fan base whose involvement transcends the 90 minutes of the game." The Timbers fans' relationship with the club's ownership "isn't always easy, given Paulson's occasional take-no-prisoners PR style, but it feels like a three-dimensional one" (ESPNFC.com, 8/5). Meanwhile, in Orlando, Paul Tenorio notes as part of MLS expansion club Orlando City SC's funding agreement with Orange County for a downtown stadium, MLS "agreed to bring the All-Star game to Orlando within the next five years." Orlando City is "still early in the process of identifying an ideal year to bid," but it is "aiming to host the game" in '17 or '18. Orlando would "ideally not host the game" in '15, when it is "playing in the renovated Citrus Bowl." The team also would "prefer not to host the game" in '16, its "first year in the new soccer-specific stadium" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/6).
YOUNG & THE RESTLESS? FOXSPORTS.com's Kyle McCarthy wrote the decision to stage Monday's MLS Homegrown Game, which includes top players in academy programs, "makes sense, but the logistics and the opposition (the Portland Timbers U-23 side) prompted technical staffs around the league to raise some concerns about the exercise." Crew MF Wil Trapp said, "I think it’s necessary to come and show the young audience and the United States in general where we are at in terms of our homegrown talent.” McCarthy wrote it is a "case MLS wants to make on a grander stage, but this particular night did not advance it much" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/5). SI.com's Liviu Bird wrote the Homegrown Game is "on par" with the NBA and MLB's Rising Stars games, but "take them for what they are for the pros involved: showcases, not tryouts." Having a Homegrown Game featuring MLS academies "shows how far" the U.S. has come in "developing players -- and the long road still ahead" (SI.com, 8/5). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Singer noted Chipotle title-sponsored the Homegrown Game, which is the brand's "largest sports partnership." The pitch for the game also featured a "huge Chipotle logo" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/5).
JUST (DON'T) DO IT: In Portland, Allan Brettman noted adidas is Bayern Munich's kit supplier, but at the Univ. of Portland's Merlo Field, where the team is practicing, "Nike rules." UP AD Scott Leykam said that the school worked with MLS to "sell temporary signage to Bayern Munich sponsors or partners." Signage has been "affixed to sideline railings for Bundesliga, AT&T, Bayern jersey sponsor T-Mobile, and Bayern Munich part-owner Audi." adidas, "which is Bayern's uniform supplier and also a club part-owner, is conspicuously absent" (OREGONLIVE.com, 8/5).