Five Ways the MLS Got Its All-Star Game Right
The MLS isn't the most successful league out there, but it does have one thing right: its All-Star game.
Last night's matchup between the MLS All-Stars and Manchester United didn't turn out the way the league hoped, but they can't be upset with more than 70,000 fans jamming into Reliant Stadium to watch the match.
Attendees got to catch a glimpse of the league's most talented players, such as Landon Donovan, and also saw one of the world's most famous clubs, Manchester United.
Not bad for an American soccer match.
Without further delay, here are five things the MLS has right with its All-Star Game.
It Brings in World-Class Opponents
American soccer fans only have a few opportunities every year to watch world-class teams play on their home soil.
The MLS All-Star Game is one of those.
Chelsea, Celtic, and Manchester United are just a few of the clubs that have faced the best the MLS has to offer.
Although it was embarrassing watching the MLS get shredded by a (mostly) second-rate Manchester United side, Wednesday night's loss was the first defeat the All-Stars have suffered in regulation since the game's inception.
In other words, it's been a mostly successful endeavor for the league.
Another reason why it's a good thing is because it's win-win for both the opponent and the MLS.
It's a tune-up for the visitors and it's a treat for the All-Stars to play against a club they—minus Donovan—otherwise would never match up against.
Not to mention, it's a fantastic marketing tool to bring in world-class teams.
Settle down there, footie purists, unlimited subs are a good thing.
Think about it.
It's the offseason for the visitors, so this match is nothing more than a tune-up to prep for the upcoming year.
With that in mind, unlimited substitutions allows managers to rotate in and out however many players they want to. That could be giving old legs a breather (like Ryan Giggs) and new ones some experience (Javier Hernandez).
Either way, everyone benefits.
Also, it gives fans, who are most likely there to see the opposition more than the All-Stars, a chance to see more players from world-class clubs in person.
For the MLS, unrestricted subbing means that 1) Players won't get too tired to play in their next match, 2) Everyone gets a chance to play, and 3) Players who just played a full 90 (i.e. Landon Donovan) can make a brief appearance to satisfy the crowd.
Other than a few more interruptions than usual, there are no negatives.
It allows those who fear injury to get off without making a scene, fans get to see a plethora of top-notch players (at least on the opponent's side), and basically no one is left on the bench.
As Michael Scott would say, this situation is "Win-win-win."
There Is a Winner
Note: Purists, before asking for my head, please understand this applies to the MLS All-Star Game ONLY.
Americans love seeing a winner and a loser.
They HATE ties.
While I think ties are okay in league play, they certainly aren't in an All-Star Game. Fans pay big money to see the best and brightest go out and give them a show.
Look no further than America's favorite past time—baseball, for those who don't know—to see how poorly fans react when a tie is the end result of an all-star showcase.
Kidding. But seriously, attendees got very upset.
In this already meaningless game, what harm is a penalty kick shootout, one of the most intense and nerve-wracking events in sports, going to cause?
So it's an exciting way to cap off a match for the fans.
It's for the Fans
This is the most important aspect of the event.
And all three of the previous points take this into account.
While most people outside of Seattle, New York, or Los Angeles aren't all that excited about the MLS, this event draws the attention of even the most casual fan.
Some might think, "They're playing Manchester United? Or Chelsea? Okay, I'll give it a try."
Diehard fans probably have a hard time getting into it because it's been so Americanized and that's totally fine.
I'll stick to EPL matches on Fox Soccer Channel myself, but the MLS All-Star Game gives the crowd what it wants by hosting world-class adversaries and playing to the fans.
Overall Good Exposure for the League
See that mic?
Yeah, it has "ESPN" on it. That's big stuff for American soccer and the MLS.
While it's still somewhat pathetic that a network won't broadcast the league's biggest event behind the MLS Cup, more consistent ESPN coverage is still a step in the right direction.
This is in part due to the genius of MLS which, as I already mentioned, brings in a world-class club to play the All-Stars.
Although a 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United isn't exactly what U.S. soccer wants to broadcast to the world, it gives fans an opportunity to become more acquainted with the best the MLS has to offer.
More exposure means more money. More money means better players. Better players means a better league.
Win. Win. Win.