Nov 11, 2010

Scrap the Current MLS All-Star Game

MLS has always had an all-star game--it is one of those sort of uniquely American ideas that was embedded in the American soccer scene that doesn't seem to exist in other nations.  Early on in the league's history, the game was a competition between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference.  In 1998, the MLS had the American Players on one side and foreign MLS players on the other.  A similar thing was done in 2002 when the foreign MLS players played the U.S. National team in another World Cup year.

Since 2003, however, the MLS All-Stars have been selected by choosing a Best XI, including fan voting, and the coach and Commissioner picking the remaining seven players, along with other players that were "all-stars" but not on the All-Star squad.  The purpose of the latter category of players was to give them a modicum of a bonus and something to put on the CV, but had little other importance.   The MLS All-Stars then play a foreign, usually English or Scottish club.  In 2003, MLS played Chivas de Guadalajara.  This year, 70,000 people saw Manchester United beat up on the MLS team.  True the games mean little on the grand scale, but I think it is time for a change.

With the plethora of foreign clubs coming to the U.S. on pre-season cash grabs tours and the fact that every MLS club played at least one international friendly against those visiting clubs, it is not like American soccer fans aren't seeing their favorite foreign clubs in live action in the U.S.  So the purpose of the MLS All-Stars vs. a foreign club is a little outmoded and unnecessary.  We are seeing on a regular basis how MLS clubs match up against some of the best foreign clubs around and the match-ups are not nearly as one sided as they may once have been.

That is not to say that the MLS should not be selecting a Best XI every year or that we get rid of a Best XI vs. a foreign side.  My suggestion for the Best XI would be fore Soccer United Marketing to posit a MLS Best XI v.  a Mexican Best XI charity match kind of like a North American Community Sheild.  (Oh, and get rid of SuperLiga).  Since the U.S. and Mexico won't be meeting in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, this kind of Best XI v. Best XI might keep something of a rivalry going.  With a number of Americans playing in Mexico, you might even see Americans on the Mexican Best XI and vice versa.  I think it could be fun.

But I think it is time to bring back the old conference against conference set up for the All-Star game.  First, we would get 36-40 players rather than just 18.  The All-Star bonuses aren't all that much to being with, so MLS can't complain about that.  Second, it will showcase MLS talent a little more, we have many very good players.  Third, I think it would be a nice advert for the league.  Fourth, it should be played after the season, like the NFL Pro-Bowl and should be played in a non-MLS venue.

I even think that MLS could take another page from the NHL and create a player pool of say 40 players, including a select number of rookies/developmental players and let those players then select two captains and let the captains have a "draft" of their players.  Then the league names the coaches for each side and then have a game.

I am American enough to like an All-star game.  But if MLS is going to continue to have an All-Star game, it should be a game among the league's best players only.  It should showcase MLS talent and bring in money to keep within the league.  Manchester United did not need whatever percentage they got from this year's match.

Foreign clubs are going to keep coming to the U.S. for pre-season tours or tournaments (like last years World Football Challenge).  We don't need the MLS All-Star game to be another game with another foreign team.

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