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Is it time for the All-Star Game to return to East vs. West?

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With Kansas City locked into All-Star Game fever, the razzmatazz and splendor of a top foreign team visiting US soil has got everyone in a frenzy.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

Up until 2002, there was just the good old Eastern conference vs. Western conference format. So why has that now become a thing of the past?

There are multiple reasons, but can East vs. West become a thing of the future?

I’m not so sure about that. But I hope so. After Chivas Guadalajara became the first foreign opposition in 2003, MLS went back to the East vs. West format for the 2004 game.

But that didn’t last for long and since then Fulham, Chelsea (twice), Celtic, West Ham, Everton, Manchester United (twice) and now AS Roma have been the benchmark for MLS’ best to pit their wits against.

However, after trolling back through the history books (well, it’s a website now but you get the idea) the early days of the MLS All-Star Game seem like a distant and mystical land.

From the 9-5 wins, extremely awesome mullets and hideous jerseys to over 70,000 at Giants Stadium, back in the mid 90s the ASG had a different vibe to it. Now it seems classier, Macklemore was out wooing the crowd yesterday in KC and a whole plethora of events have been lined up this week.

(MORE: Morning MLS All-Star notes, including some expansion tidbits)

It is not just about the soccer. So why does a foreign team have to turn up and join the party? Because, like I said, an ASG really isn’t about the soccer.

These top European teams treat the game as a friendly as they prepare for the upcoming league season, while many people around MLS treat the game as a measuring stick to see how the players compare to some of Europe’s finest.

But there is no need to invite another team to compare MLS’ elite against. No need. Regardless of the inferiority complex that exists in the minds of US soccer fans vs. other regions of the world, MLS is doing great. So let the All-Star Game be a celebration that includes a plethora of the best players in the league, not just a limited number because there can only be 11 starters.

Yes, I know teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and tomorrow’s opponents Roma help sale tickets and create more interest in the game. But from where I’m standing there are always going to be MLS fans from across North America flocking to this game. Even if a big-name European team isn’t present.

(MORE: The conversations we’ll have… at MLS All-Star activities in Kansas City, that is)

My proposal is that the East vs. West format returns for the 2015 season. Next year’s ASG has already been slated for Portland’s JELD-WEN Field and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has already said “the biggest global name” will be rolling into town.

So after that, can we return to East vs. West and crazy 9-5 scorelines? I get that MLS doesn’t want to be like MLB, the NBA or NHL. But a one-off game between the best of Major League Soccer’s East and West conferences would certainly be an occasion to savor.

That said, so will tomorrow’s game at Sporting Park. Enjoy celebrating the success of MLS.

Maybe one day it will be East vs. West again. Maybe.

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.