An All-Star approach to Season 10
If you haven't noticed, we're in the middle of Season 10 of Major League Soccer. There are patches being worn on the teams' jerseys, logos celebrating the occasion everywhere from the league's website to various signage and poster boards around the stadiums to those white adidas collared shirts being worn around the front offices.
It's not overkill. This is what happens in every league in the U.S.
When the NBA turned 50, there was a huge buildup to the listing of the top 50 players in the 50 years of the NBA that was cause for much discussion and, better yet, debate that lasted well over a year. (Robert Parish?)
When the NFL turned 75 in 1994, throwback uniforms were worn during several games, which were a huge hit, and may very well be the spark that started the whole throwback craze that went mainstream a few years back. (That was also the year that my dad squeezed himself into a white "Joe Namath" Jets throwback from 1969 every chance he got, which was nearly grounds for divorce in my family.)
The World Series turned 100 in 2003, which spawned several articles and gave the networks another chance to replay Larsen's perfect game, Fisk's Game 6 bomb against the Reds, Reggie's three homers against the Dodgers, and bring up Fall Classic immortals such as Bill Mazeroski, Joe Carter and, gulp, Bill Buckner. (When MLS gets to 100, you can bet they'll still be showing Eddie Pope's header in the rain.)
MLS can properly help celebrate its 10th season by naming an All-Star team from the first 10 years at the awards gala before MLS Cup this November. For all I know, that's in the works and hasn't been released yet. But what I'd really like to see is something to honor the players who have played in this league from Day One. And I think I've found the way to do it.
As the warmup match to the MLS All-Stars versus Fulham on July 30, I'm proposing a 60-minute match pitting the 10-year players versus the top rookies.
The idea first came up during a conversation I had with Chris Henderson, a 10th-year man himself, last month.
"I'd play, and I'm pretty sure the other guys would too," said the Colorado Rapids midfielder.
The roster wouldn't be very deep. That's why we're cutting the match to a 60-minute affair. However, there's just enough 10-year vets out there to make it work.
Chicago's Zach Thornton would be in the goal. In front of him, you'd have a three-man backline with the Metros' Jeff Agoos, RSL's Eddie Pope and the Crew's Robin Fraser. In the five-man midfield, Henderson could play on the left with New ENgland's Steve Ralston on the right, and a central midfield trio consisting of Chicago's Chris Armas, the Galaxy's Cobi Jones and Colorado's Mark Chung. Up top, there's a choice between the Crew's Ante Razov, RSL's Jason Kreis, and D.C.'s Jaime Moreno. Off the bench, there's Kansas City's Diego Gutierrez, the Crew's Manny Lagos, RSL's Brian Kamler, Chicago's Jesse Marsch, Kansas City's Preki and one the aforementioned strikers.
That's 17 players in total. Even if a few are injured coming into the match, there are still enough players to produce an entertaining game without anyone having to overexert themselves. San Jose's Dominic Kinnear could coach this side, as well, being that he's been with the league for all 10 years as a player, and assistant and now as a head coach.
After honoring the 10-year vets by having them face the rookie all-stars this summer, the tradition could continue in the same fashion that the NBA does as part of their "Super Saturday" when they have the second-year players take on the rookies. Since all-star spots are going to be hard to come by each year because there's only one team being made rather than two as was the case most every year beforehand. It's yet another way to sneak in some bonus incentives for the league's top young players, many of whom are not breaking the bank as first- and second-year players in MLS.
Don't worry, I'm not about to bring back up the idea of any sort of skills competition or any other made-for-TV gimmick. This 10-year-rookie clash would be on the same day, and simply serve as the appetizer to the main event, much in the same way that the "Legends Game" did last summer at RFK. If you talk to people who attended that match or who stayed inside on that warm summer afternoon to watch the festivities, most will tell you that they enjoyed the prelim just as much, if not more, than the actual All-Star Game. It could be the same way this year with a little planning.
So get to work, MLS. You got three months to plan this.
And if it does somehow happen, I believe you have my address. You know I'll be expecting something in the mail right around Labor Day.
Maybe one of those white adidas collared shirts with the Season 10 logo.
Marc Connolly writes for ESPN.com and several other publications. This column runs each Wednesday on MLSnet.com and Marc can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.