The MLS starters for the 2009 All-Star game have been announced, and the smart money is against Everton becoming the first foreign club to taste victory in the annual exhibition.
Chivas de Guadalajara, Fulham, Celtic, Chelsea, and West Ham have all fallen victim to the best MLS has to offer, and Everton should join that ever-growing list of scalps on July 29.
Don't despair, Everton fans. The match is set up to ensure success for MLS.
You see, the MLS squad is comprised of various full internationals in their prime, older stars who still have a good bit of life in their legs, and young players rising through the ranks, hungry to prove themselves.
That combination in itself isn't enough to take down a talented European squad, but when you consider that the MLS squad is in mid-season form and most players in Europe are just returning from summer vacation...well, the odds look a little daunting.
Everton has the indomitable Tim Howard between the sticks, and the Toffees can also throw Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta at their opponents. Indeed, any club that's qualified for Europe each of the last few seasons and has been hovering around the top four is going to have a good deal of talent on the books.
But David Moyes is a smart man, and he won't want to risk serious injury to any of his first-team players in a meaningless exhibition.
In the 2006 All-Star Game, Chelsea made six substitutions at halftime in an effort to protect their stars from injury. Unfortunately, Joe Cole, who was brought on at halftime, was taken off six minutes later thanks to a knee injury sustained during the match.
Moyes will be mortified at the thought of one of his players sustaining a similar injury, so you can expect him to handle his usual starters with kid gloves. Everton's strategy will likely resemble that of a preseason NFL game—play the starters just long enough to satisfy the fans and then yank them so they can't get hurt.
While the match may be meaningless for Everton aside from the fact that some fringe players will get some quality playing time, it's a pretty big affair for MLS.
The fans really enjoy the All-Star festivities, and the return of Howard to an MLS pitch will be something that every American can enjoy. Plus, beating European clubs—even with the terribly lopsided odds in their favor—helps grant MLS an air of legitimacy among the fringe fans.
The typical American Eurosnob fan—you know the type: refuses to watch anything but EPL and La Liga despite having a domestic league of their own—will take a look at the result and think, "Huh, maybe MLS is doing something right."
It's just one big love-fest for MLS, a morale booster that benefits both parties. The European club picks up some good experience in a preseason friendly, and everybody in MLS goes home with a fuzzy feeling inside because they've just knocked off a team from a great league.