Good Friday morning Caps’ fans—I had a dream last night that Vancouver won MLS Cup 4-0 after a shock run to the finals. Unfortunately, that reality won’t be playing out anytime soon.
Instead, Vancouver pivots towards a new challenge following their week one bungling: an away fixture to LA Galaxy, who are in the midst of quite the change this season. Most notably, that change is trading in Zlatan for one of the few players in the world more liable to create buzz in the long run: Chicharito Hernandez.
After years of speculation, the high-profile Mexican international arrived in MLS to much fanfare. While he isn’t the player he was even a couple seasons ago, Chicharito is by far the biggest Mexican national to ever grace MLS and the league is surely licking their chops at what it means for the bottom line.
The notion that this is going to be what finally wins over large numbers of Hispanic Americans to watch MLS en masse, thereby tapping into the largest dormant (in terms of American soccer) fan base in the country, seems speculative. Chicharito’s debut came in Houston in front of an admittedly packed house at BBVA Compass Stadium—but it appeared most of those fans were there to see the Dynamo, not the opposing team’s star player.
His home debut will be an interesting test case: what percentage of the fans in attendance will identify first as Galaxy fans and what percentage will identify foremost as Chicharito fans.
I think this gets at a larger issue which MLS has struggled with over the course of its entire existence. How does the league tap into the U.S. and Canada’s massive immigrant populations who are more inclined to follow domestic leagues from where they are from versus domestic soccer in their new homeland.
I frame it this way because a whole host of teams, including Vancouver, are rolling out a more diverse, multilingual social media presence ahead of this season. The Caps, along with a dozen other teams, have new Spanish language hashtags, which is pretty dope. Also, the team has reached out to the Twitterverse to find translators for social media accounts in an array of other languages.
That comes in addition to coordinated marketing efforts in French and Korean—the latter of which being a brilliant move as Vancouver continues to establish itself as a top destination for young Korean players. It also doesn’t hurt that Vancouver has the second largest Korean-Canadian population.
Hernandez’s arrival should provide a wake up call to all teams, regardless of whether they have an El Tri star on their roster or not, that there is a market waiting to be tapped that is totally different than the hipster, white dudes in their 30s demographic that has become the stereotype of MLS supporters. It seems like Vancouver is really going to lean into that fact, which makes sense given that the team plays in one of the most diverse cities in North America.
At a time when season ticket sales are declining, the Caps are going to need to be creative about getting butts in the seat. Chicharito or other star players might do that for one game but it doesn’t really move the needle on actually increasing fan engagement (remember Zlatan’s visit last year? Yeah...). But building relationships and engaging with communities which the league and team have often ignored is both the right thing to do and a business win for the Caps.
With the LA Galaxy home debut coming, it’ll be interesting to see how other teams respond as well.
Shameless Self Promotion
We are very excited to have two new writers on the site, Mats and Luis. Luis will be doing a lot with the Canadian National Team and makes his 86F debut about their prospects for Olympic qualifying. Mats meanwhile, debuts a new recurring feature in Thinking Caps, the first of which can be found here.
Meanwhile, we’ve consolidated our match preview and starting XI contest posts into one—you can find the LA Galaxy story here to get those picks in.
Best of the Rest
Between the Sticks looks at the arrival of Janio Bikel and whether it will be enough to plug the midfield hole
In a similar vein, JJ Adams considers Owusu and Bikel’s arrival. Bikel could be ready for primetime Saturday, while Owusu needs some more time to build up match fitness
Ronaldinho has been detained by authorities in Paraguay for allegedly using a fake passport. Oops