Has MLS dropped the ball on its marquee match?

For the second straight year, MLS scheduled its biggest game, New York vs. Los Angeles, during late hours on the east coast. Has the league dropped a golden chance to add fans?
Today’s match between the New York Red Bulls and the Los Angeles Galaxy should easily be one of the most important and showcased matches on Major League Soccer’s programming schedule.

Eleven English Premiership titles, four La Liga titles, three PFA awards, two UEFA Champions League trophies, two MLS titles and not to mention various other accolades and achievements will be showcased in the likes of Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Rafa Marquez and Landon Donovan.  For the neutral, it is a time to give the league a chance as its biggest stars will grace the pitch at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.  Yet, for the second year in a row, the game is scheduled during late hours on the east coast.

How is a growing league supposed to add fans when its best matches are on at times that only the most ardent Red Bulls supporters will stay up to watch?

Think that the commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, would schedule the Miami Heat versus the Los Angeles Lakers at 11 p.m. ET?

For all of the warranted praise that MLS commissioner Don Garber receives for keeping the league financially stable and encouraging soccer specific stadiums, one pointed criticism has to be his handling of the league’s top matches.  The league desperately needs an El Clasico -a match that generates considerable hype and excitement- in order to gain not only more interest but ultimately more lucrative television contracts.

MLS had several issues with its scheduling this year due to a television contract standoff between itself and Fox Soccer Channel that lasted through the first week of the season. FSC extended its MLS contract for one more year. Surely, next year the league will face similar problems.

A few years ago, an NFL athlete during an interview once told me that the most important aspect of sports is its anticipation. Anticipating the moment, the players on the field and ultimately, the challenge of what’s ahead. “That’s what draws us to sports,” he explained.  However, the league only started promoting the match on Thursday on its official site, MLSSoccer.com.

Yes, MLS doesn’t have anywhere near the media coverage or the following that the big four sports has(MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL) but there is a feeling that there is something lacking from what should be its showcase.  If the television ratings are low, then the league will only have itself to blame.

The league declined to comment on the subject despite multiple attempts to schedule an interview.

Alex Labidou is the Deputy Editor of Goal.com USA. Agree or disagree with the story above? Give him a shout @sportslab on twitter.

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