In defense of the current MLS All-Star format; Don’t change a thing!

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KANSAS CITY – I know that Joe Prince-Wright has advocated a return to the old East-West format. But I suspect my PST colleague has an ulterior motive.

You see, if MLS went all “back to the future” on that one, Joe would probably have a reasonable chance of landing on one of the rosters! I mean, I hear he’s not too bad.

Long story short here, I love the current format. And when Don Garber asks me for my opinion – which is almost sure to happen; I’m a little surprised he hasn’t gotten around to it already – I’ll insist that it never changes.

The first reason, as noted above, is about protecting quality. I remember the former games and how so many performers were All-Stars only in the academic sense that they had secured an invitation to participate in an All-Star event.  But they weren’t All-Stars in the more typical use of the language, in the way we see best-and-brightest types.

(MORE: MLS All-Star preview vs. AS Roma)

In truth, there were too many participants who were too far from ‘something special’ quality. True, there are more teams MLS today, all with larger rosters than before. All of that serves to increase the selection pool, which can only elevate that overall standard of All-Star.

On the other hand, I just don’t see 40 MLS men today who look and feel like the difference maker a true All-Star should be. There will be something of a dropoff between the first and second MLS teams Wednesday at Sporting Park that I would put somewhere near “noticeable.”

Otherwise, I love the way this format distinguishes itself from others, importing a big brand from overseas or Mexico to challenge a team that best represents top-shelf MLS stuff.

The East-West formats are a bit stale, but what choice do these other sports have? Major League Soccer’s chosen format exploits an opportunity the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB simply doesn’t have. It doesn’t need changing or improving.

Moreover, by including the likes of AS Roma, Chelsea, Manchester United, etc., organizers stand a chance of adding fans to the MLS brand, supporters of the game who otherwise might not tune into league action.

Believe it: anybody who watches enough of Wednesday night’s match may or may not emerge impressed with any MLS All-Stars, and fair enough. But if they aren’t a little moved by the amazing ground just outside Kansas City, then they aren’t fans worth having. Truly, Sporting Park (pictured) is a gem – and the money spent, about $200 million, should say something about the ongoing, passionate commitment.

That has to mean something.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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League Cup wrap: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

[ FOLLOW: Live MLS scores ]

On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET