July 25th at 8:00pm Eastern time. For many, it will be the kick off to the annual MLS All Star game. For others, like me, it's just another time and date. Maybe I'll be cleaning the dishes or watching Cars for the 3,000,000th time with my son. One thing is for certain, I won't be watching this glorified exhibition. I am not a fan of All Star Games. They are not what they used to be. When I was a kid, players took All Star Games seriously. It was a competition. There were bragging rights on the line. Today, it's nothing more than a holiday.
I have long been an advocate of bringing back a level of competitiveness to any All Star Game. It's time that the MLS give the fans a real show. I have examined the current setup. I've taken it apart, dissected it and examined every little detail. I think I've found the problems.
Dear Don Garber, if you are reading this (hey, it could happen), here's what is needed to turn the All Star Game into a glorious event. Fans, feel free to agree, disagree, love me, hate me or write letters of recommendation to the MLS HQ so I can go work for them!
MLS XI vs a big name team
Champions' League winners Chelsea will be this year's opponent. That's a sexy name in the Soccer world right now. Here's the problem: They are getting ready for the new EPL season. Any game played in North America will only be considered a tune up game and will not be taken too seriously by the champs. The star players will be on the field for a while but will no doubt lack the competitive spirit to go all out. They are one of the best clubs in the WORLD. If they would be in mid season form and play with the pedal to the metal, the MLS squad would be blown out of the water. Of course Chelsea and their players will be coached to say the right things. ‘It's an important game. It's more than an exhibition match. They are tougher than we thought'. That will give the casual fan that warm and fuzzy feeling inside. To the diehard fan, it's a kick in the jewels.
The MLS keeps on making strides and gaining a strong reputation throughout the world but the simple fact is that this is a game between an established, championship caliber squad in Chelsea facing some great MLS players that will have practiced once or twice before kickoff. This should be, in reality, no contest.
No love for many MLS fans
Here are some numbers for you to think about:
- There are 19 teams competing in the MLS.
- On a game day, a team submits a list of 18 players eligible to play in the game.
- That means that there is a pool of at least 342+ MLS players that are available.
- Only 18 players are selected for the All Star game.
- This year, only 10 teams are represented
(Chivas, SKC, SJ, Vancouver, NY, Philadelphia, Seattle, LA, RSL, and DC United)
- That means that 9 teams are left out in the cold
(Montreal, Houston, New England, Chicago, Columbus, Portland, FC Dallas, TFC and Colorado)
By looking at the numbers listed above, why would fans from the 9 neglected markets decide to watch this year's game? Their team's best players are not included in the competition and they have no sense of attachment to the team so what is the point? What is attractive about an exhibition game featuring a ‘playing at half speed' European side against players from only a few MLS teams thrown together a day before? The answer: Absolutely nothing! I'd rather watch two squirrels battle over a peanut or two seagulls fighting over some fries in a McDonald's parking lot.
The game just isn't interesting enough for all MLS fans. Being in the Montreal market, I have absolutely no will or desire to watch this game. Add Felipe or Patrice Bernier to the roster... now I might keep my evening free and call a few friends over.
East vs West: Start marketing your own players
The MLS is no longer the little train that could. Thanks to the fine work by Commissioner Don Garber, the owners and everyone involved, the MLS has gained a great reputation not only in North America but worldwide. It is a respected name brand. There is no longer the need to boost the All Star Game by using a big name team in the competition. It is time to focus on our own players and the fans in every market.
Here's how you make the game appealing for every fan:
- East vs West
- 20 man rosters
- Each team gets two representatives
- Fans can vote for the starting XI (no more than two players from the same team)
- To fill up the remaining spots in the roster, it would be up to the coaches but they must ensure that the quota of two reps per team is respected.
- If a player declines the invitation or is injured, the All Star coach can replace him with another from any team within the conference. If possible, the coach will try to select the replacement player from the same team.
This set up would allow every team to be well represented. The MLS marketing department could create a generic ad campaign that every team can complete with their chosen All Stars so that they can market them and generate fan interest. Now, every MLS city would have a reason to sell All Star game memorabilia. Which All Star jersey would sell more in Montreal? Chris Wondolowski or Patrice Bernier? I think the answer is pretty clear.
The math is simple: Representatives from every team = more marketing = more interest generated = higher TV ratings + more All Star products sold = more money! If that isn't a great recipe for success, I don't know what is.
I have always loved this concept. Knowing what is said on the field, minus the f-bombs and other curse words, has always been of great interest to the fans. Give them what they want! Put a microphone on EVERY player! Sound clips can be used throughout the entire game and for a feature segment during the halftime and postgame shows. As an added bonus, fans watching at home could log into the MLS website and choose which player they want to listen to, free of charge (with a 7 second sound delay to keep it rated PG). To add an extra touch of greatness, this feature could be added to the MLS application so that fans in attendance could listen in as well.
Level of competition
Many of you are now thinking that although my ideas are pure genius but (yes, I like to pat myself on the back sometimes) it doesn't take care of the level of competition or how serious the players take the game. Don't worry, I've got a solution for that too.
Currently, the MLS must be paying Chelsea an excessive amount of cash to come over here and play our All Stars. How about Don Garber re-invest that money into his own players? MLS salaries, except for the DPs, are nowhere near NBA, NHL, MLB or NFL money. The majority of salaries range from $30,000.00 to $250,000.00. Let's give the players a chance to pad their wallets a bit. The following bonus chart won't be of great interest to the designated players of the league however, one must believe that a DP would try harder knowing that he has a chance to help some All Star teammates deposit a nice, fat bonus into their bank accounts.
Congrats!! You're an All Star!! Here's your payout:
- $75,000.00 bonus for being voted a starter.
- $60,000.00 bonus for being added to the roster.
- $50,000.00 bonus for being added as a replacement (due to player declining invite or injury).
- Every player on the winning team receives an additional $125,000.00 bonus
If a regular player has a chance to add anywhere from $175,000.00 to $200,000.00 to his salary for one season, I'm pretty sure that he'll be ready to go all out and fight for that win. Wouldn't you?
Also, a little clause that is sure to make owners smile: All bonuses paid out for the All Star Game would not be figured into the team's salary cap. Everybody wins!
Just to show that this is not all about making money for the league and its players, the MLS could use the All Star game to promote their great MLS W.O.R.K.S. program. Every player selected could choose a charity to play for. Automatically, 10% of whatever bonus they make could go towards that charity. Based on some quick math, an All Star Starter on the winning team would be donating $20,000.00 to the charity of their choice.
Wait!! There's more!!
Since the rosters are released at least one week prior to the All Star game, the fans can get involved too. When the player chooses his charity, teams can begin an online campaign so that the fans can donate money to the cause as well. If the team has a home game before the All Star break, they can have volunteers at an All Star booth collecting funds. Team owners could also get involved by promising to match, dollar for dollar, whatever amount the fans donate.
This would be a beautiful team effort between the MLS, the players, the teams and the fans to help out their community. How could anyone say no to that?
Making the MLS better and building a stronger community
The All Star game should be a fun event that promotes the league and bring the MLS community closer together. It should be a chance to cheer on your team's players, temporarily putting aside rivalries and uniting with fans from different cities all while helping out your fellow man, woman and child. By using a formula where every team is represented, fans from every city will have an automatic sense of attachment to the All Star game. The interest level in every city will rise and the fans will actually look forward to this event every year.
However, before all this can happen, the league needs to ensure that all the fan bases have a reason to watch the game and that there is a certain amount of competitiveness. This won't happen if the MLS keeps inviting these foreign teams to come in and play. This won't happen if only half the teams are represented. The All Star game will never gain the full respect of the fans if the league doesn't think of all its fans.
It is time for the MLS to, as Montreal's Jeb Brovsky says, 'Go Impact The World' of every fan!