While the MLS All-Star game has garnered more and more media attention in recent years, the format of a high-profile midseason friendly has come under fire from soccer fans around the globe. This year was no different, when the MLS All-Stars defeated Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League 2-1 on Wednesday night.
The goal should be to make the MLS All-Star game more interesting, all while keeping the integrity of the talent exhibition that makes every sport’s All-Star game so much fun. Here are three proposals for MLS to fix one of their biggest nights in a way that will be more engaging for the entire soccer populous.
East vs. West
The first solution for fixing the MLS All-Star game is a simple one: pitting the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference. While there was very little interest in this in years past, the talent in MLS has vastly improved, to the point where fielding two legitimate teams from each conference has become a more likely and prudent idea.
Other ideas have been floating around suggesting that MLS should take a page out of the MLB’s playbook and use the All-Star game as a way to determine home field for MLS Cup. In an East-West format this could work very well, though it would cheapen the regular season, as point total currently determines home field advantage.
Putting MLS Cup home-field advantage on the line would certainly heighten the interest of hardcore fans in the All-Star game and create a great deal of buzz amongst the various causal supporters of MLS clubs.
USA vs. The World
Remember the old NHL All-Star games where the USA formed a team to take on the world’s best? Why not bring that kind of national pride to MLS? With so many American national teamers returning home to play in MLS and international superstars from around the globe flocking to the United States, it would be awesome to see those players team up to take on the best the USA has to offer.
While it’s easy to point out how a team of players like Giovinco, David Villa and Kaka would obliterate the United States, it’s worth noting that American players tend to know each other’s tendencies, with many of them playing together from a young age. Thus it would likely be a battle of chemistry against talent, with a chance for MLS to show off some young American players, as well as giving the fans some input into a pseudo national team.
The potential for fan engagement, both on a national and international level is staggering in a USA vs. the World format. MLS represents the best fit for such a game of any of the major sports leagues.
MLS vs. Liga MX
The biggest rivalry in North America is USA vs. Mexico, so why not push along that rivalry by pitting All-Star teams from the two domestic leagues against each other. Liga MX has always dominated MLS in terms of talent, but with the growth of MLS, the American league may be able to compete with their Mexican counterparts on an All-Star level.
The two leagues could even organize alternating series, where Mexico and the United States would host the All-Star game every other year. It seems that the fate of these two leagues are intertwined, as they compete for continental supremacy in North America, and the potential for rivalry between the two leagues is nothing short of monumental.