It was announced earlier Thursday that Arsenal, the 13-time English Premier League Champion, will be the opponent of the best MLS players in the All-Star game this season. The Gunners will join other English teams Manchester United (2x), Chelsea (2x), Fulham, Everton and most recently Tottenham Hotspur as opponents in MLS’s summer classic.
Big Ratings, Potential Disaster
Although these world renowned teams bring big television ratings, a large crowd and world class players (usually a weakened side though), playing such sides create a huge risk for MLS. These are no longer the early days of MLS, when being embarrassed by European sides was acceptable (Manchester United won 4-0 and 5-2 in 2010 and 2011).
A huge defeat this year against Arsenal could be harmful to the growth of the league, especially in the eyes of European viewers. In the opinion of many aboard, Major League Soccer is still looked at as a weaker league or a place for European stars to retire.
MLS A Weaker League?
It isn’t hard to see their point either, just look at left back, Ashley Cole who signed for the Los Angeles Galaxy just a few weeks ago. This is a player that less than two years ago said he rejected MLS offers because he was “not ready to retire on a beach yet”. The league needs to be evolving and disproving the European stereotypes not encouraging them further.
Right now, the league is in transitioning period, it is no longer a new league this season. It will be in its 21st year of existence and it is time that MLS starts developing world class stars of its own. That means bringing in young European talent to develop in the league, maybe even snatching that talent up from the big English clubs. This means that MLS should no longer be bringing in clubs, like Arsenal, to possibly embarrass its own “All-Stars”.
MLS Should Go Back to The Old Days
What MLS should be doing is reverting back to the old All-Star Game set up, East - West. In this format, the league’s true talent could be showcased, unlike now where only the big names get voted in by the fans and the other 11 players are selected by the coach. This setup would allow for 44 players to be selected for the game instead of just 22 and the best from each conference could square off.
MLS will be reluctant to ever use this format again because they want large TV audience and most fans like a big European club play against their players. If the league truly wants to be able to showcase its own talent and what it’s players have to offer, why not give them the chance? An all MLS All-Star game would definitely be more competitive than just another pre-season friendly for a European side.