It’s Time to Change the MLS All-Star Game
For the last 12 years, the Major League Soccer All-Star Game has featured the best players in the league against a club from Europe. Surprisingly, the MLS has done well in these games, owning an 8-4 record. But now, it’s time for the MLS to join the other major leagues in North American and have a Conference vs. Conference All-Star Game.
Why? Because it seems like the MLS is trying to show it can compete with these other top leagues, when the reality is that it can’t. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but they need to embrace that they will never be a top destination for high-end talent. Sure, Giovinco came to Toronto, but he’s more of an exception to the rule. For the most part, any big name player that comes to North America is there as a retirement tour. Beckham, Lampard, Pirlo, Drogba, Gerrard. The big names in the MLS are there as an attraction more than for their actual performance.
Other players in the league know it too. After being left off of the All-Star Team this year, Columbus winger Justin Meram voiced his opinion about the event. He called the All-Star Game a “celebrity match” and went on to say “it’s getting a bunch of guys together and playing against Real Madrid,” which might sound like he’s bitter, but he’s got a point. This is a preseason game for Los Blancos, but it’s supposed to be one of the highlights of the season in the MLS. Even the attraction of one of the biggest clubs in the world coming to North America is not enough to convince the fans that the All-Star Game is relevant.
Sure it’s a chance to have some of the best players in the world come to North America to highlight their talent, and really could be used to get more people here interested in soccer. But why would Real Madrid care about this game? If they lose, it’s a preseason game and they most likely aren’t playing their best squad. If they win, it’s not impressive because it’s the MLS. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that the MLS is a bad league. All I’m saying is that the level of talent in the MLS will never reach the level of talent in the Premier League, La Liga, or Bundesliga. The popularity continues to grow, steadily enough that the league continues to add new franchises. Since 2004 the league has grown from 10 teams, to 22 with the addition of Atlanta and Minnesota this season. Another Los Angeles team will begin play next year, and David Beckham is bringing a team to Miami in the near future.
The MLS is as strong as it’s ever been, strong enough that they have enough star power to have an All-Star Game featuring only MLS players. I just don’t see the point in competing against another league. It won’t make fans think that the MLS is just as good. It doesn’t take a lifetime soccer fan to see the difference in talent between the top European leagues and the MLS. It’s time for the league to embrace what it is and make their All-Star Game a showcase of the talent within the league.