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Drive-In Theaters For Soccer? The Pick-Me-Up We All Need

Getting off the couch and outside for something safe but communal would be a godsend this summer.

Over the last few days I’ve become obsessed with the idea of bringing the drive-in theater experience to soccer. The move was initially proposed by Danish club FC Midtjylland, which would like to setup big screens outside MCH Arena to allow 2,000 cars (a maximum of 10,000 fans) to come and enjoy a live screening of the match from the safety of their own vehicles.

This is a magical idea. 

If you take the drive-in theater experience — cars kicking up dust in the summer twilight, the communal sounds of children laughing, grills sizzling and beers being cracked juxtaposed with the sanctity of your own little backseat oasis of blankets, snacks and the radio telling you the show’s about to start — and apply it to a soccer game being played under the lights, Sam-I-am down with the program. 

Drive-in theater

Midtjylland's vision of an endless summer. Photo: @fcmidtjylland | Twitter

And we now know that drive-in theaters are the future. 

The theaters themselves are something of a rarity since their halcyon days of the 1950s, but many are predicting a boom in the business this summer. In fact, the entire U.S. box office from this past weekend (Swallow was the top-grossing movie with a whopping $1,710) came from one single drive-in theater in Florida.  

Drive-in tickets sales are especially thriving in countries that are steadily rebounding from the pandemic, including Germany and South Korea. While fewer than 25 of America’s 320 or so drive-ins are currently open for business, it’s an entertainment industry that New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently highlighted as being in compliance with public safety.

MLS looked to the past for inspiration in its 25th season, and now it’s time to look at drive-in theaters for the way forward. The league is currently targeting a return date of June 8, but those games would certainly be played behind closed doors, and that measure will probably last through the summer at least.

Granted, the drive-in scenario wouldn’t play out equally for all clubs.

For example, anyone who’s ever been to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City, knows that this is the dream solution. There’s absolutely nothing around DSG Park except parking lots. Doing this at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx for NYCFC games, however, probably wouldn’t work as well.

But I can see the sun going down over Allianz Field in Saint Paul as cars roll into a Minnesota State Fairgrounds parking lot, I can hear Callum Williams coming through on 1500 AM and I can feel like I’m waking up from a lonesome dream, surrounded now by twenty thousand strong.

And then when the game’s done we can watch a Lion KingToy Story 4Crawl triple feature.

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