With J Hutcherson — I'm not one of those who dismisses Major League Soccer's All-Star game along with the club friendly schedule as not quite worth the intelligent soccer fan's time. Done right, those games can be a lot of fun to watch on TV or in person. However, I am of the opinion that the All-Star Game should be about the fans. After all, there's a reason that's the model.
Say what you will about baseball's version, but it's setup as an outward event. Same with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. Not so much for MLS, who have instead turned it inwards. A destination for sponsors and once, current, and future League employees. Everybody else, thanks for buying a ticket.
That might come off as a little harsh, but the MLS model is way too close to what the National Football League is trying to solve. Broader interest, more about the fans of the League than the League itself.
Major League Baseball took a calculated risk, but still a risk, by setting up their FanFest. The result was a public event that involved more people than can get into the All-Star game, and the NBA followed right along. All still have their closed party and event circuit, but that runs alongside making it about more than the actual game for the general public.
Once upon a time, MLS had a skills competition. You know, that event driven idea that makes the MLB, NBA, and NHL versions fun for people who are never likely to make it through a complete game. Minus an eager television partner, the soccer version was axed. After all, why build an event to make it worth TV's time?
Instead, the modern version of the All-Star Game is like the old version of CONCACAF's Gold Cup. Prop it up with an invited guest. One can probably feel safe in the assumption that there's not an overwhelming support for Everton in Salt Lake City, UT. Tim Howard's connection is to the greater North Jersey/NYC area. As fits go, it's not exactly surprising that, at least according to reports, the original plan was to bring in a La Liga club to play off the local MLS team's fascination with all things Real. Better still to simply make it about Major League Soccer.
So here we are, a midweek game to get it on television. No buildup unless you count the League's in-house party circuit. An opponent in pre-season with no meaningful stake in an All-Star environment. The teams involved in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying opting out altogether due to scheduling. I could go on, but there's a point here past simply taking yet another shot at Major League Soccer.
By making their version of the midsummer classic inward, MLS has quite simply taken away the bridge to turn it into an event that not only takes over a local market, but involves soccer fans all over the country. Instead, what they've ended up with is just another date on a crowded calendar.
Comments, questions, solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves. Please, tell me all about it.