After the Major League Soccer All-Stars were shutout by Manchester United on Wednesday night, Twitter stormed with posts about how the MLS needs to return to an East vs. West format.
This was something I called for a recent column I wrote which looked at the All-Star Game and how it didn’t need players like Landon Donovan. Last night, the All-Stars didn’t need a player like Donovan. They were quickly outmatched and didn’t stand a chance for their inactivity together as a team. Little preparation and chemistry will offer nothing when playing Manchester United which has been continuously playing together since, well, a very long time.
In the column I previously wrote, I explained how the league is now at a place where it doesn’t need to be playing any of these top tier English sides. Did you know that Malaysia also has a Best XI against an EPL side (Chelsea)? Does the MLS really want to compare itself to Malaysia’s league when it gets ousted like this?
Right now, the MLS has fans that are willing to make the journey to see the team play. Obviously bringing in the Red Devils sparked sales and garnered even more cash from merchandise and such, but it doesn’t reflect well when the leagues’ best get slashed apart and look amateur compared to England’s best.
Because the MLS gets destroyed in games like these, it doesn’t give the casual fan a reason to return to the game. Fans are more interested in seeing winning teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United -- these teams win games and hold trophies. They’re the best in the world, something that the American teams that the casual fan follows in other sports pride themselves on.
In order for America to truly reach its potential in soccer fandom, it needs to be a winning competitor. When it gets destroyed by the Red Devils like it has the past two years, that doesn’t really inspire a typical fan to watch a Tuesday night New England Revolution game.
So what needs to happen? Return the format to East vs. West for the All-Star Game. Back when this format was still the way it was in MLS days, the teams weren’t as strong and players weren’t as popular so the game seemed kind of silly. This of course led to the different formats the league has tried over the years. A return to this style would offer the MLS a chance to showcase all of its top talents and impress people with its playing potential.
Here’s what we’d be looking at for an All-Star Game had it been East vs. West last night. The East team would be filled with Theirry Henry, Dwayne De Rosario, Faryd Mondragon, Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Shalrie Joseph, Juan Agudelo, Omar Bravo, Joel Lindpere, probably Charlie Davies and Marco Pappa would make the side too. Not a bad looking squad for an ailing Eastern Conference.
The West, meanwhile, would be built up with David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Tally Hall, Kasey Keller, Corey Ashe, Geoff Cameron, Bobby Convey, Sean Franklin, Jamison Olave, Heath Pearce, Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Jack Jewsbury, Nick LaBrocca, Omar Cummings, Chris Wondolowski, Eric Hassli, Nick Rimando. Sure the West had a high amount of selections, though I doubt Ashe, LaBrocca and Franklin would make the lineup again based on the display (or lack there of) they had last night.
Ultimately what this shows us is that the team would be fairly equal, and it would offer two sides that had an actual competition. I think fans would be more excited to watch these two teams compete on a competitive level than walk into a game where they’re about to see their team wiped out.
In helping soccer grow in America, a lot of it has to do with inspiration. An East vs. West affair would offer Americans the chance to watch all of the best players of its league competing against each other. Fans were restricted from seeing some of the top players actually compete. The fact that Hassli and Davies were left out is an atrocity. Throw them back in, and you’ve got yourself even more star power and exceptional competitiveness on the pitch.
With the beautiful game rising in America, an East vs. West format could only help the Americans fall in love with the world’s sport.