Multisite Drupal Migration to Score the Best Fan Experience

Major League Soccer (MLS Digital) is a professional soccer league representing the sport's highest level in both the United States and Canada. Since its initial season in 1996, the league has expanded to include 22 teams - 19 in the U.S. and 3 in Canada. The organization sought Phase2’s assistance to migrate each team’s site to a single Drupal 7 platform.

MLS Homepage Mobile
MLS Homepage

A Customized, Flexible, and Consistent Platform

Migrating 20 club sites onto a new platform while maintaining the legacy platform was no small task. MLS also needed highly sophisticated customization options based on each team’s design, content priorities, and site maintainers’ capabilities. Each site had to have the same code base and capabilities, but offer full flexibility for each team’s site owners. At the same time, each legacy site had to be supported as the migration took place over several months.

NYCFC Mobile
NYCFC Homepage

Learn more about Phase2 and Sports

Why Drupal was chosen: 
  • Multi-site capabilities.
  • Customization options.
  • Enhance site performance.
  • Integration with outside systems.
  • Mobile capabilities.
  • Multilingual functionality.
  • Improved editorial workflow.
Describe the project (goals, requirements and outcome): 

Enhanced Fan Experience

Delighting the MLS fanbase was a priority throughout the project.
Each team’s site maintainers can easily configure their team’s instance to best fit their technical capabilities. At the same time, we enhanced fan’s ability to enjoy their favorite sport with custom, rich multimedia platforms that allow viewers to enjoy games in real-time from any device.

Houston Dynamo
Houston Dynamo Homepage

Increased Efficiency

Before multisite, the deployed codebase for all 20 sites had an aggregated footprint of 2500MB and the RAM needed for the different site instances led to a need to choose M3.large instances at AWS (Amazon Web Services). Switching to a traditional multi-site architecture cut our deployed footprint to approximately 150MB.

MLS Teams

By reducing the RAM required, we would be able to go from an M3.large to the newer C4.xlarge instance which is cheaper and faster. Another huge performance leap came from upgrading to PHP 5.5.

Overall, these two changes gained MLS a 40% performance increase.

Consistency & Flexibility Across Multiple Sites

Working with a blended group of Phase2 team members and MLS technical teams, we created a large Drupal 7 platform that would establish consistency in the code base and data sources while still allowing each team to create a distinct identity. As a result, each team site’s design cohesively fits within MLS’s digital brand despite differences in colors, images, and styles.

Portland Timbers
Portland Timbers Homepage


Colorado Rapids
Colorado Rapids Homepage

Integration with MLS properties

The Drupal 7 platform integrates with the majority of MLS properties, including MatchCenter live game stats, and the league’s large library of video content. It also integrates with Opta stats, a powerful stats data provider. As a result, fans encounter a streamlined experience with all the multimedia content they’re looking for each time they visit a league or club site.
MLS Schedule & Scores
MLS News & Schedule

Rich Advertising

MLS had a need for a rich advertising presence to draw revenue from their multi-site platform. Phase2 integrated the DFP (Doubleclick for Publishers) module which allowed MLS to optimize ad placement and draw in visitors with vibrant advertising media.

MLS Home Ad

Empowering Editors

MLS needed to empower their editors to architect and publish content quickly, easily, and even in real time as sports events unfolded. Drupal 7 offers speedy editorial capabilities and powerful customization options that enable MLS editors to get vital league information to fans quickly across devices.

Team Branded Site within MLS

Outcome

At the end of the project, everything was running in AWS and MLS’s monthly AWS bills were a quarter of what they once were, and in early 2016 they were able to shut off their legacy hosting provider and achieve a considerable reduction in their monthly hosting costs. The infrastructure is also more stable, and the number and severity of alerts that the MLS Digital tech team receives is reduced.

Modules/Themes/Distributions
Why these modules/theme/distribution were chosen: 

Context Module
Context allows MLS to configure layouts, including home pages and sidebars, across their many sites.

S3FS Module
This module enables MLS to store millions of files on S3 instead of the typical Drupal local files directory.

DFP Module
“Doubleclick for Publishers” is crucial to MLS’s ad revenue goals, enabling MLS to optimize ad placement and draw in visitors with vibrant media.

Purge and Expire
This module efficiently handles fastly and other cache clearing.

AMP Module
This module accelerates mobile pages for Google, deliver a real-time experience for fans across devices.

Organizations involved: 
Community contributions: 

From MLS:

From Phase2:
Elfinder: patched to add S3 integration, so that the file browser actually manages S3 buckets instead of a local directory.

Project team: 

Team members other than Phase2:

  • Hans Gutknecht
  • Justin Slattery
  • German Martin
  • Andy Sauter
  • Michael Li
  • Brian Aznar

Phase2 team members:

  • Mike Crittenden
  • Jace Poirer-Pinto
  • Steven Merrill
  • John DiSpirito
  • Zack Tidwell
  • Courtney Koppenhaver