I read a status update on my friend's Facebook page the other day and it read something of the sort, “On My Way to Comic Con 2011”.
I will be honest, the first thought that ran through my head was, “Man, what a total NERD!” And then after a few minutes I pondered a couple of things. First, what do my friends must say when I post stuff about how awesome soccer is or when I post a link to my latest article and such. Am I that “Nerd?”Then a second and more enlightening thought popped into my head. How great would it be if MLS Supporters had something similar to flock to and share our love and passion for the league and sport? And thus I began to imagine the magnificence and splendor that a weeklong convention in Las Vegas could hold.
Now this is by far not the most novel of thoughts by any stretch. The American Outlaws hosted a similar event not too long ago in the same location but that celebration was mostly geared towards US Soccer as a whole. I believe that MLS should hold something similar but with a very MLS oriented twist. They could try and leverage the unique and growing MLS Supporters Groups culture that is taking root around league. Here are just a couple of thoughts and ideas on how MLS could capitalize on this opportunity.
Late January or early February would probably be the best time for a couple of reasons. First, most fans wouldn't mind heading to Vegas in the middle winter, if for nothing else just to avoid the cold. Second, it would be a perfect time for the league and clubs to reflect on the past season and also discuss the future of the league and club for next season. The convention could also mark the official “Kick-Off” of the following year's season. Information on pre-season activities like friendlies and tournaments could be published. The league could also use it as an opportunity to begin growing the fan base's awareness of potential stars in the next year's Super Draft. This will help those young internationals no one has ever heard of gain some recognition like Joao Plata, for example.
Why Las Vegas? Well for a couple of reasons. The readily available facilities and entertainment are obvious but I also chose Las Vegas because of the opportunity to grow that particular market. For years now developers have talked about securing a giant sports complex in nearby Henderson to possibly house an MLS franchise. Well, if MLS makes an annual pilgrimage to the area and gets involved in that community with a possible pre-season tournament that coincides with the Supporter's convention, then maybe securing a franchise becomes a little more practical and possible.
I am not talking just interaction between Supporters and Clubs, but League Officials and media as well. League officials and front office types could hold presentations on changes to league schedules, rules, salary caps, roster size, etc. It would be a great opportunity to tell the supporters in-person what changes MLS is making, why, and what kind of impact they could expect. It would also be a perfect time for each Club to connect with the fans and begin to truly cement their relationship. There could be Supporter's groups break-out sessions where they can plan and discuss their plans for the upcoming season. Or how about a Supporter's group competition filled with sing-offs, league trivia, and soccer skills section, a true Battle of the Best. Another thought is for the tight knit media community to come together and mingle, network, and share thoughts on the league with each other and the supporters. From a die-hard's perspective how great would it be to have the Soccer Twitterverse of who's who in MLS and Soccer in one spot at the same time and interacting directly with their “following”.
Celebrating the Sport in Action:
A simple way to add another dimension and another great degree of interaction is to hold a couple of actual tournaments. I would see two almost separate tournaments taking place. The clubs could have a nice quick 4 day pre-season tourney to get the youth some time as well as getting their big time players a good run and opportunity to play in front of the Las Vegas community. Secondly and more interestingly, I could see more of a “Rec” league tournament. You could have a Supporter's Groups bracket, a Media bracket, Front Office bracket, and a Managers bracket. Think about the hilarity and uniqueness of seeing Grant Wahl face off against Brian Straus, or the Emerald City Supporter's Group against the Timbers Army and even better Jason Kreis battle it out against Ben Olsen. I think there would be no better way to celebrate the league and sport than to have all of the key members, supporters and all, partake in the Beautiful Game itself!
MLS should seize an opportunity to get the center of MLS support together and truly celebrate the sport and the league. It would a prime opportunity to connect and to cement all of the relationships whether your a fan, player, manager or media member. There is no reason why we can't have a Comic Con for ourselves. A place where our passion is celebrated, developed and possibly spread to new members. So here's to you Soccer Con 2012!