Let's imagine a potential scenario from the not so distant future, shall we?
The year is 2016. Coming off a season in which his team missed the playoffs and his individual performance left his fans feeling underwhelmed, Orlando City's captain, Kaká, comes back with a vengeance. All the unique difficulties of MLS -- the travel, the physical play, the drastic climate changes -- are now old hat to him with a full season under his belt. The fearsome injury bug misses its connecting flight to Orlando and he is joined in the midfield by Kevin Molino. Cyle Larin continues his growth into one of the best strikers in the league, giving him an outlet to rack up the assists numbers. Orlando fans don him with the nickname "Slick Rick" (fingers crossed!). He registers only the second 20-goal, 10-assist season in MLS history, and wins MVP.
All of this sounds pretty great, right? All except for the trophy our hero Ricardo will receive for his efforts.
As far as trophies go, the Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player Award isn't the worst, but it certainly isn't good. After seeing a picture of it, I was surprised to learn that it was designed by Tiffany & Co., the famous jeweler that also designed and produces the MLS Cup and the championship trophies for both the NBA and NFL. I would have thought that it was designed by an elementary school design contest if only because it's very, well, boring.
It's certainly not the most irrelevant MVP award, though the design of its trophy might make you think twice about it. I would reserve that role for the NFL MVP award which, if you ask me, is the least prestigious of the five North American major professional sports MVP awards due to the historical fact that there are far too many versions. Give me one, league-sanctioned MVP award and accompanying trophy. That's it.
In terms of world soccer, it's certainly not as interesting to look at as the Ballon d'Or, which goes to the world player of the year and formerly the European player of the year, of which Kaká is a holder. It's definitely not as attractive as the Football Writers Association Player of the Year trophy or even the BBC African Footballer of the Year trophy, which both belong to the English game.
It is, however, an improvement on its predecessors. Let's face it, MLS has a rough history with its trophies. Besides not actually being a cup, the original MLS Cup trophy wouldn't look out of place in the trophy cabinet of my high school gym (I imagine that the league office had to scramble to the local sporting goods store the night before the final because it forgot to get a trophy in advance).The MVP award, too, has been a disaster in the past. Robbie Keane could easily bring flowers home to his wife (can you blame him?) and use his MVP trophy as the vase, and Preki could have used one of his two trophies as a door stop.
Naming the award after Landon Donovan is all fine and good, but simply creating a silhouette of Landy Cakes on his trophy feels disingenuous, almost like Don Garber is hedging his bets in case they want to change the name of the award some years down the road. Tiffany's should make the MVP trophy a statue of Donovan, in the same vein as the NBA MVP and Heisman. Make it a replica of his famous pre-penalty crouch, or an action still of him mid-strike, or even a cast of his famous 2013 Gold Cup scream. Just make it interesting.
Oh, and do it fast. We don't want some lame trophy on Kaká's mantel next to his Ballon d'Or after next season.