The MLS All-Star Game is upon us and the game itself features differing opinions among fans. Some love it, some hate it and some feel MLS shouldn’t even have the game at all.
The MLS All-Star Game isn’t perfect but it’s still great for the league to have. MLS receives some great PR and some positive comments from the big name European team they face by saying MLS is improving and is becoming a top league. Case in point, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott said yesterday that the competition in MLS is getting closer to the EPL.
But this doesn’t mean that the MLS All-Star Game cannot improve and that is where I come in. MLS has done a great job to make this midseason friendly a great event, starting festivities with a concert (Flo Rida this year), and adding a yearly Homegrown Game the day before the All-Star Game in 2014. But despite all of these things, we can have more.
Many people want to improve the All-Star Game by having an East vs. West format instead of MLS vs. European team. It’s debatable as to whether or not that would actually improve the game but it isn’t one of my ideas because MLS is not going to be doing East vs. West anytime soon. It just doesn’t make sense from a league perspective. Like I said, bringing in a big name European team brings in interest from non-MLS soccer sectors and those who are Arsenal fans and even EPL fans who don’t normally watch MLS will watch this game instead of any other MLS game or an East vs. West All-Star Game so until MLS is big enough to have an audience that dwarfs EPL viewership, they aren’t doing East vs. West anytime soon.
My big idea to improve the MLS All-Star Game is to have a skills competition before the game. A skills competition, similar to MLB’s Home Run Derby and NBA’s Skills Challenge would be great for everyone. All-Stars who are playing, players from the opposing team as well as other MLS players can compete in a variety of soccer related competitions that they would normally do in their downtime anyway. MLS can either livestream the competition online or have it on TV, have a different MLS corporate partner sponsor each competition and whichever player wins each competition can win some money that they can give to the charity of their choice. It’s a win-win all around. Here are just some ideas for a possible MLS All-Star skills competition.
MLS FIFA Tournament
Naturally sponsored by EA Sports, a 16 person FIFA tournament that’s single elimination to determine the best FIFA player in MLS. To increase involvement among fans, maybe pair each MLS player up with a fan and it becomes a 2v2 FIFA tournament.
Similar to the basketball game HORSE, a four person tournament with two head-to-head semifinals and a final. If someone hits the crossbar, the opponent must hit the crossbar from the same spot or they get a letter. The first person to spell the word “SOCCER” loses.
Penalty Kick Shootout (with a twist)
Four teams of two players each would compete in two head-to-head semifinals and a final in a best of five penalty kick shootout. But this would have a twist. The goalkeepers would would be the kick takers and the outfield players would be the goalkeepers. When penalty kick shootouts go past eight or so rounds, many fans look forward to seeing things go to the 11th round and we see the goalkeepers take kicks. Why not give this to fans and have the goalkeepers take the kicks to see what they can do against those who usually have the advantage against them in shootouts.
Four teams of three players each team would compete in two head-to-head semifinals and a final whereas the first team to 10 points wins. Teams get one bounce and like in volleyball, can volley the ball up to three times before having to send it over to the opponent.
This would be open for any MLS player who wants to participate as well as players from the opposing team. FootGolf is a new, ever growing sport that is played by many players as well as fans and would be a great addition to a skills challenge.
Every event, except for the FIFA and FootGolf tournaments can be played on the same field at the same time. If the skills challenge were to be shown on TV, this can be a two-day event with the FIFA and FootGolf tournament livestreamed online on day one and then highlights of those tournaments are shown during day two whereas the on-field competitions would be live on TV.
This is only a start. Surely, more ideas for competitions can be added and these ideas can be tweaked to be more efficient but this is a great start to improving MLS All-Star week. The event is great, as the MLS-All Stars take on Arsenal in San Jose Thursday at 7:30 on ESPN. But with the addition of a skills challenge, we can make it better.