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

Jul 30, 2013, 4:50 PM EDT

AT&T MLS All Star Game - Chelsea v MLS All Stars Getty Images

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.

  1. talgrath - Jul 30, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    I personally prefer this, the MLS All-Star game actually features the stars trying to win the game, rather than 9-5 garbage where nobody is really trying. Just look at the NFL pro-bowl, it’s not really football so much as it is players joking around. Trying to prove that MLS is a good league motivates the players to actually put in effort and try to pul out a win, that makes it a much better game.

    • krazymunky - Jul 30, 2013 at 8:22 PM

      and less MLS stars waste their time at the ASG. (compared to having to field (2) full teams to play against each other)

      (please dont play camilo tomorrow!)

  2. tylerbetts - Jul 30, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Horrible idea to go back to East-West.

    First, the issue is not, and never will be, selling out the game. You put the All-Star game in any MLS-specific stadium, and you will have ZERO issues selling it out. Even if you put the game in Seattle, Seattle is going to put plenty of butts in the seats.

    For MLS to grow, they need money. And money needs to come from beyond attendance. The only way they are going to get (significantly) more money is to increase TV revenue. And, for the moment at least, the best way to drive up some TV interest is to bring in a big name team. It’s also the best way to bring in casual fans who follow European soccer but not MLS.

    In theory it works like this: they watch the All-Star game to see Roma, Man U, Chelsea, or whomever else. In doing so, they see a player or players they like, and they follow/watch that team. And then tell a friend or two about it. And it grows.

    Does the theory work perfectly? Of course not. No theory does. But it’s not a bad strategy for the league.

    Going back to East vs West takes away some of that marketing, gives non-MLS fans the ability to continue to snub the league, and does nothing to help overall exposure of the league.

    Going back to East vs. West accomplishes approximately one thing: it makes MLS more like the other major US sports. That’s NEVER a good reason to do anything.

    • charliej11 - Jul 31, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      Maybe it showcases US talent versus showcasing over exposed Euro teams.

      Maybe ? Nevermind of course it does, which is a GREAT thing for US soccer.

      It is great that so many watch, but the extra guys are not watching for US soccer they are watching because they are a Man U fake fan.

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  4. adiaz9201 - Jul 31, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    I dont like east vs west either i like it the way it is now, is what brought me to MLS. Every year i get to see Man City or Roma, Barcelona who ever it is brings more excitement to MLS.

  5. jskinner23 - Jul 31, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Keep it how it is. In its current form, the MLS All-Star game is one of the few I can tolerate because the players are actually trying. The only downside to me is everyone forming too many conclusions based on the result of a match featuring the best players in the league w/ only a couple of training sessions together vs a top club in the world that is still in pre-season form.

  6. charliej11 - Jul 31, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Please do NOT keep it the way it is. It is not watchable. If guys want to watch Man U, they will be on TV ( NBC even ) in a few weeks.

    The best idea is the Mexican All Stars versus the MLS All Stars. That would be fun.
    East versus West is the way it should be and would be great too.

    Joe Prince Wright just became my favorite:
    “Regardless of the inferiority complex that exists in the minds of US soccer fans… ”

    Amen JPW, Amen.
    It just hammers the truth that Americans need to start loving their soccer, not live some fantasy dream by faking you are a Chelsea fan.

  7. markburst - Jul 31, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    We could go back to East vs West or US players against the World ASG formats when the league is considered a viable top league in the world. When we are the measuring stick… Right now, we are not, so it is important to showcase our players to the top teams in the world. Since our league is financially considerably lower than top Euro Leagues and teams, the MLS All-Star Game is another way for the MLS to showcase its best players in order to sell them to the top Euro clubs.

  8. footballer4ever - Jul 31, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Are you freaking serioua? Out of all the All-Star games in North American which are boring and cumbersome, the MLS AS is not only unique and attractive, but it truly shows the international football spectrum and appeal. So if “East vs West” AS is so much better, why not go back to to the gimmicky NASL rules too. MLS/football is about being unique and refreshing and not just to imitate another cumbersome US sports league.

  9. bishopofblunder - Jul 31, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    My proposal is that we disband the ASG altogether. There is constant wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over fixture congestion and yet we stage a meaningless match in the middle of a long season.

    Granted, it only involves 20 players while all the others get to rest up a bit. But check out the Steve Davis article just previous to this one. Managers are complaining about their players getting too many minutes in the ASG because, due to fixture congestion, there are league games slated for this weekend — a mere 3 days away.

    I know it generates revenue and (hopefully) prestige for the league. But I think we fail to see the bigger picture.

  10. hildezero - Aug 1, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    NBA has West vs. East, MLB has National vs. American, and NFL has NFC vs. AFC. Each league has it’s own unique ASG, so MLS has to be unique also by having a North American vs. The World ASG. I prefer that over West vs. East, but as of right now they should keep that format.

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