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.
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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.