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SBI Question of the Day: What format should be used for MLS All-Star Game?

Photo by  Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

While they are far from a soccer-centric tradition, all-star games have long been a staple of American sports culture. Major League Soccer is no different, even if the format of the game remains up for debate.

Thursday night will see the MLS All-Stars collide with Arsenal, continuing the recent tradition of pitting the league’s elite against top-level European opposition. The format has been in place since 2005, bringing teams such as Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United stateside in recent years for the midsummer match.

The current format features plenty of positives. In what is essentially a friendly game, fans are given the chance to see their favorite teams on home soil in what always seems to turn into a semi-competitive match. The event collects MLS’ best and unites them against a familiar foe to the casual fan, exposing the league to a wide variety of people in the process.

However, many believe that the league, and American soccer culture as a whole, has outgrown the format. European teams regularly make preseason stops in the U.S. to feed the needs of the Euro-centric fans, while many fans of MLS have grown tired of seeing the league face European squads in what is essentially a lose-lose situation. Should the All-Stars win, it is because of the rust displayed by the preseason European side, while an MLS loss is seen as damning for the league as a whole.

Options remain, even if the league has maintained the status quo for over a decade.

Reverting to an East vs. West format may take away some of the casual eyeballs that join for the All-Star game, but one could certainly argue that the league’s standard has caught up with the idea. An East team would feature such stars as David Villa, Kaka and Sebastian Giovinco, while the West would boast Clint Dempsey, Giovani dos Santos and Jermaine Jones. The league’s talent level has risen exponentially over the past several years, giving both conferences plenty of talent to work with, including U.S. Men’s National Team stars and international legends.

Still, the league may not be fully ready for that step, as it takes away some of the allure of an All-Star game. An option that remains is the idea of pitting MLS’ elite vs. those of Liga MX, even if it would involve some hurdles in working out the details with the Mexican league. Those hurdles may prove too much, but the idea of a North American clash would give the All-Star game a special dose of competitiveness should the two leagues meet on the field.

Another idea that could increase competitiveness through pride is the idea of pitting the league’s top American stars against their international counterparts. While the American group would enter with some semblance of chemistry with multiple USMNT regulars in the fold, the idea of seeing Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard mix with up-and-comers like Keegan Rosenberry and Brandon Vincent would provide several fun storylines.

Finally, there’s the idea of scrapping the All-Star game altogether. The idea of the midsummer friendly is a very American one, and doesn’t always blend in with the soccer landscape. New York City FC head coach Patrick Vieira recently bashed what he sees as an “exhibition game”, one that takes players away from their team in the thick of the playoff race. All leagues recognize some sort of Team of the Season, and perhaps MLS would be best served in saving the friendlies for European sides in preseason.

With that being said, what’s your preferred All-Star game format? What would you like to see MLS go with in the coming years?

Share your thoughts by voting  in the poll below, and explain your reasoning in the comment section:

[polldaddy poll=9484696]


  1. It’s such an easy solution I don’t know why they havent done it yet. 3v3 small field, bracket style. Champs get an Audi and 52 mini kegs of Heineken

  2. The East vs West format is stupid. I went to an NBA All-Star game in Dallas in 2010 and had never been more bored. The event of seeing celebs, the activities, and the atmosphere was fun, but the game itself was a snooze-fest. There’s absolutely nothing to play for.

    The MLS has the talent to make it interesting? Please.

    I actually like the all star vs European giant format. They are getting more exciting each year. As we saw against Bayern Munich, the match can be competitive, and they fact that we beat them and they were mad about it made it even more fun! As the league grows, we can prove ourselves to these guys if we consistently beat them.

  3. Scrap it.

    The fact that they’re now penalizing clubs who have players that “get an injury” prior to the match and don’t play is embarrassing. Having ridiculous pre-season matches for European counterparts in the middle of your regular season (that you’re trying to convience fans matters) is also embarrassing.

    Living in Chicago, I routinely defend MLS against the large population of soccer fans from around the world I meet, but these types of charades only solidify the mickey mouse aspect of our league.

    Garber has done a lot for the league but I look forward to the day we replace the NFL-showman with someone who actually understands the game.

  4. Not a fan of all star games, because you rarely see the stars at their best, which is what separates them from the good. If you could find a way to make it mean something to the guys, than I would be for it.


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