16 July 2008

MLS All-Star Game – the Americanization of Soccer Continues

Why does Major League Soccer feel the need to copy the other major American sports? I suppose it gets to the old debate – do they try to lure non-soccer fans to the sport by feeding them familiarity, or do they try to grow the league by attracting purists (such as myself) who spend hours watching the Premiership every Saturday and Sunday morning from August to May.

Based on MLS as it exists today, the former appears to be the league direction for now. They already have this bizarre “regional” dual table system. They already have a “play-off” to find out – oh by the way after a full season of playing head to head football – who the “real” champions are. They do not have a system of promotion and relegation (something that my readers know I feel passionate about).

And of course there is the MLS All-Star game. I truly don’t understand this match. Sometimes it’s based on region, sometimes it’s based on nationality, sometimes this team plays a National team, sometimes this team plays a Club team.

I get it, I know it’s a marketing event, but for a purist (fine…a snob) like me, it’s a contrivance of a match.

This is a team comprised of players who are not selected by a manager, but rather are voted on by a combination of fans, coaches, general managers, players, media, and the MLS commissioner. Don’t get me wrong, I realize these players are usually of the highest caliber, as popularity and performance tend to go hand in hand, but it does lean toward a popularity contest.

In my mind, international football already has an All-Star team – it’s called the National Team. Club football already has an All-Star team – it’s called the League Champion. These two teams have actually earned the right to play in the big events.

I would like to see MLS focus more resources on promoting the league champions, setting up a proper table, and adding to the contest by building competitive grass roots teams, rather than spinning out resources by promoting this “all-star” team. Let me know if I'm off base here!

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