Let's be honest—most all-star games are frivolous affairs. Sure, they are fun for the kids, but ultimately the games suffer because very little is at stake.
And when there is something at stake—like the MLB's absurd policy of having the league that wins its All-Star Game earn home-field advantage in the World Series—we tend to critique them for trying to force relevance onto something that should be meaningless.
Not that these events can't be enjoyable, of course, but they're generally enjoyable like a casual game of volleyball between beers at a barbecue is enjoyable. They're, well...relaxing.
But the MLS has done something a bit different, and a bit more fun, with their all-star exhibition—they gather their top stars and have them face a top European side. This year, it's none other than German powerhouse Bayern Munich.
For a league that often suffers from (the perhaps unfair) comparisons to minor league baseball when stacked against the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga or the Bundesliga, this is the chance to stack their best against some of Europe's top talents.
So, what should you be watching for at this year's game? And which squad is likely to come out on top? Let's break it down.
|MLS All-Star Game|
|Wednesday, August 6 at 9:30 p.m. ET||Providence Park, Portland, OR||ESPN2||WatchESPN|
Fans of the MLS game helped to vote for the All-Star team that will play in this game and will have the usual excitement that comes with seeing the top players in the league join forces. But let's be honest—the really exciting aspect of this format is seeing the MLS' best match wits with a top European side.
And few teams in the world are better than Bayern Munich.
While the Bavarian side is still in its preseason preparations and many of its players are coming off a lengthy World Cup campaign, the talent they have available is insane. Players like Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Goetze, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Robert Lewandowski and United States man Julian Green should all be available for selection, amongst others.
And you can expect to see Green in action in this one, per Ben Jata of Opta:
In short, there isn't a player on the MLS All-Stars who would crack the Bayern Munich first team, at least not at this point in their careers.
Still, the talent alone isn't the only reason to watch this game. Seeing the continued evolution of Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola will be intriguing as well. Remember, the former Barcelona man changed Bayern's tactics quite a bit last season, installing some of the tiki-taka made famous by the Catalan club.
It was Guardiola that envisioned Lahm as a defensive midfielder. It was Guardiola that saw Thiago Alcantara as such an important addition to the squad. Will Guardiola's tinkering continue to take Munich to new heights this year, or will his tactics clash with the team's natural tendencies in year two?
That's a storyline to keep in mind. Another will be how the MLS side fares.
This is a friendly, the Bavarians aren't at peak condition and Guardiola will probably take the opportunity to cycle through his bench throughout the match. Plus, the MLS All-Stars are going to want to prove they aren't pushovers, so this game should be competitive.
And you can bet Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, amongst others who featured for the United States at the World Cup, will want a little revenge against their Germany counterparts who beat them in Brazil and ply their trade for Bayern Munich. So there's that, too.
It's also important to note that this game is about far more than just the game on the pitch. For Bayern Munich, it's about spreading its brand into the giant market that is the United States. For the MLS, it's even more important, as Kyle McCarthy of Fox Sports writes:
The sight of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry all wearing the same jersey provides an evident reminder of the talent on display every week. The emphasis on U.S. national team players this year—seven out of the 10 MLS representatives in Brazil are in the frame to feature after Omar Gonzalez withdrew over the weekend—supplies yet another component in the wake of the World Cup success on these shores.
This game offers MLS a chance to build on the momentum generated by that tournament and make further inroads during the second half of the season. MLS thrives on measured and steady strides on and off the field, but the influx of talent over the past year and the lavish spending required to obtain it increases the impetus to accelerate the progress. There is a platform in place now to draft upon the interest generated earlier in the summer and seize upon those gains.
Anything that continues to promote soccer in the States is a good thing. Even if the MLS All-Stars don't have a very good chance of winning.
There will be goals in this game, and Bayern Munich will score most of them. No, it shouldn't be embarrassing, but even with a group of players returning from a post-World Cup holiday, Bayern Munich are the superior side.
Plus, several of their players like Ribery and Lewandowski are well into their preseason training. And this is a group of players that is accustomed to playing together, unlike the MLS All-Stars (with the exception of the men who join forces for the USMNT).
Everything is pointing toward a Bayern Munich win. They'll be convincing but not entirely dominant, winning 4-2.