Three for Thursday: Who should the MLS All-Stars play in 2014?
Well, that was fun.
No, the All-Stars didn't win, but fans in KC and watching on television were treated to an entertaining display of soccer from some of the top stars in MLS and abroad, not to mention a memorable week of events in Kansas City. In fact, the hype is already building in some corners for the league's 2014 summer showcase, with the enticing prospect of a game at JELD-WEN Field on the cards.
Both last night and in years past, clubs such as AS Roma, Manchester United, Celtic and Chivas Guadalajara have joined with the All-Stars to put on a spectacular show since the game switched to an MLS vs. the World format. And with the world soccer scene offering up endless possibilities for another mouthwatering matchup, who'd make the best opponent in the future? Here are a few fun ideas:
Bring on the Bundesliga
We've had teams from England, Scotland, Italy and Mexico in the All-Star Game. The Spanish powerhouses tour here with regularity. But one of Europe's biggest soccer nations remains conspicuously absent from the summer soccer scene in the US.
Visits from Bundesliga teams have remained scarce, even as the North American summer tour scene is flourishing. But that league has now firmly established itself as among the best in the world (if not the best), and if the All-Stars want a test against the one of the world's top teams, a side like Bayern, Dortmund or Schalke (featuring the USMNT's own Jermaine Jones) is an enticing prospect.
Of course, the likes of Bayern or Dortmund may not put to rest concerns over the All-Stars' ability to get a result, with the MLS side now having dropped three of its last four contests against European opposition. So while the Bundesliga prospect might be mouthwatering from the 'hype' point of view, what about a group of players that could provide quality competition and draw fans, but not overwhelm the All-Stars?
Liga MX All-Stars
OK, so it's probably the least likely to happen on this list. But how awesome would this be?
It could be an event that ties in a huge portion of the soccer-watching audience in North America, brings in a high caliber of opposition and further stokes the US-Mexico soccer rivalry (not that the flames need much fanning). Furthermore, it would bring a distinctly North American feel to the event – one that would celebrate the ever-improving soccer being played in the region and bring fans and players from its two top leagues together.
The schedules of the Liga MX and MLS seasons might make this somewhat tricky logistically, not to mention the host of ready and willing European opponents, but it's a fun idea to entertain. And MLS has switched up the All-Star formats before, so why not try something new?
The American Connection
I'd be remiss here if I didn't include one team that – like Roma – has the "American Connection," whether it's a tradition of signing American players or simply an American owner. As US ownership becomes more and more prevalent in the European game, it creates further opportunities for both MLS and the European clubs under new ownership.
Whether it's a chance to expand the club's brand, mine the expanding US talent pool (on the European side) or give MLS a chance to cement its partnerships with some of the biggest clubs in the game and increase awareness of its own brand, the wave of American owners in Europe has provided a two-way street for growing the game.
Though there are plenty of fresh, new options out there for a potential All-Star opponent, bringing in a club like Roma, Liverpool or Aston Villa, to name a few, remains a perfectly viable option that could still put on a show worthy of the All-Star Game.