Thursday, July 19, 2007

The All Star Game is Dead…Long Live the All Star Game

Tonight Major League Soccer will conduct their 13th edition of the MLS All Star Game. This year’s contest takes place at Dick’s Sporting Goods Field just outside of Denver, Colorado. Building on several past All Star Games, a group of MLS All Stars will take on a foreign club team in a friendly match, Scotland’s Celtic being the opponent this year.

The MLS All Star game is a blending of two very different spheres. In one you have the sport of soccer which is a very international sport and one that is still trying to secure proper footholds in the United States. The other is the idea of an All Star Game. This idea is something that pretty much every professional sport in North America has and one that fans seem to expect as a way of celebrating the best individuals in each sport. The All Star Game has worked well in the past for MLB, NHL and NBA. The NFL Pro Bowl (All Star Game) has never really taken up a spot along side these other three events as this game is held after the season is over, is always held in Hawaii and rarely has an exciting match up as players never fully play at the speed and brute force of the regular game.

Unfortunately, I believe that the MLS All Star game is just as dull as the NFL Pro Bowl and in it’s current incarnation, should simply be scratched from existence in favor of a different mid-season event altogether. MLS has furthered my thinking by moving the All Star Game to a Thursday night match and by essentially overshadowing the match with the arrival of David Beckham.

I like the idea of having the foreign clubs come over here and playing friendly matches against our players, it provides great opportunities for both sides involved in each match. The foreign clubs get great pre-season workouts against MLS clubs who are in midseason form and the MLS clubs get to face off against some of the best players in the world. What I would like to see is every team in MLS taking part international friendly matches, instead of an All Star grouping against one club.

I know that several MLS clubs are scheduled to play against other foreign clubs this summer, but considering the opportunity that is available, why doesn’t MLS/SUM get the entire league involved? They could take the two weeks that is set aside for the All Star Game (the week before and week after) and schedule some really good international friendlies at all parts of the MLS map.

We could see Columbus hosting Morelia one week then hosting FC Sydney the following week. The New England Revolution could host FC Porto then follow it up with a match against Colo Colo maybe. The LA Galaxy could just keep with what they have scheduled this year, Tigres then Chelsea. These matches would be ways for local fans to get exposed to foreign clubs and get the MLS players different styles and coaching methods to learn against.

If MLS didn’t want to just go that route, they could have each club host their own four club tournament along the lines of what LA is doing or the Amsterdam Cup that Ajax hosts every year. Have four clubs play two matches each, it takes only about a week and it still provides good competition. These matches would most likely make a whole helluva lot more money for Sum than the All Star Game does.

Having a group of the “best” players in the league play against a foreign club that is in preseason form, really doesn’t do the league itself any justice. This year’s match has the potential to be a real black eye, considering the opponent. Last year Celtic faced off against DC United and was lit up for four goals as they lost 4-0. If DC United can score 4 goals (and 2 came while most of United’s reserves were on the field) the All Star Team should be able to do much better.

Hopefully tonight’s match doesn’t turn into a black eye.



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