Illustration of MLS Coaches Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid

An (Un)tangled Web

Major League Soccer

Rivalries define sports.

North Carolina/Duke: The yearly battle for Tobacco Road. Cowboys/Redskins (and even though we’re based in DC, we’re not picking sides). Yankees/Red Sox: Nothing else need be said.

We could do this all day but you get the idea: Big matches divide families, unite communities – and make or break seasons.

That’s especially in Major League Soccer (MLS). 

Coaches Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid are lions in the sport with seven MLS and six US Open cups between them. Dozens of head coaches and MLS front office personnel worked for or were trained by them. In 2016, Arena’s and Schmid’s teams, the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC respectively, met in a marquee matchup. Adfero’s idea to promote it: Visualize how Arena’s and Schmid’s influence webbed its way into every corner of the sport.

We built an immersive, interactive tool to visualize relationships between coaches and their protegees. Using database and data visualization techniques, our team’s coaching tree let readers click, drag and zoom their way through the relationships between coaches, their assistants and players. Original art and smart commentary about the coaches completed the experience.

Soccer fans love details – and it showed. Promotion for the interactive coaching tree ran on and club websites. Fans chatted up the data tool on Reddit, one calling it a “beautiful chart,” and earned coverage from ESPN.