An All-Star concept worth keeping

an exhibition, after all, with nothing at stake -- you might have found

yourself tuning in to see what the atmosphere would be like at the brand-spankin'-new HDC.

You might have also found yourself wondering about the final result, even when you knew very

well that it would mean not a thing either way.

If the All-Stars lost, it was because they weren't a regular team that is used to playing

together. If the All-Stars won, it was because Chivas got caught up in the easy-going nature

of the event, realizing it was about entertaining the fans and having a fun kick-around. No

matter which way you looked at it, you knew that the result didn't matter.

Yet, it did, for some reason, didn't it?

As a supporter of the league -- then in its eighth year of existence -- you didn't want MLS

to embarrass itself. You wanted a good showing. One that might help entice the legions of

SoCal-based Chivas crazies to come back. Or, at the very least, to give MLS a little respect

after the fact.

Considering that Chivas USA was officially born only a few months after the 2003 All-Star

Game, it was a productive weekend in many ways.

Two years later, the fact that Fulham is coming over to take on the MLS All-Stars in Columbus on July 30 also works for me. The fact that Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride will be able to be a part of the festivities and promote interest around the Midwest region is gravy.

McBride coming back as the native son should, alone, be enough to sell out Crew Stadium.

"I might take a left walking through and go into the wrong locker room," joked McBride on the

teleconference to announce the match on Tuesday morning.

Now that MLS has decided to bring in another well-known club, which was also supposed to

happen last season before Real Madrid pulled out, I have one big question that needs to be

asked:

Can we please stick to this format?

Seriously ... please?

Past All-Star Results

Year Result
2004 East 3, West 2
2003 MLS 3, CD Guadalajara 1
2002 MLS 3, USA 2
2001 East 6, West 6
2000 East 9, West 4
1999 West 6, East 4
1998 MLS USA 6, MLS World 1
1997 East 5, West 4
1996 East 3, West 2

No more East versus West. No more MLS versus the World. No more U.S. national team versus the

MLS All-Stars.

This format, though, needs to stay. Chivas came in 2003. Fulham is coming this summer. Maybe

next year a team from Germany comes in. (How sweet would it be to have Landon and his Bayer

Leverkusen side as the opponent in '06?). The following year, perhaps a team from Spain makes

the trek across the pond. Better yet, what about PSV Eindhoven in '07 or '08. If Beasley is

still in Holland and hasn't been transferred to a higher profile league for millions of

dollars, that'd create some serious interest, wouldn't it?

By keeping the format the same, it takes a little cheese out of the All-Star Game. These type of matches increase the stakes for MLSers. No player is going to be signed strictly from a performance in an All-Star match. We all know that much, but who is to say that a young player who has played two or three years in the league won't create a international awareness for himself by playing well against a side from a league in Europe. That small dangling carrot should at least help make the game relevant. That, and the fact that no team from Europe wants to head home after losing to a team made up of mostly Americans, do they?

Should MLS keep up this tradition, it could turn into one of the better all-star game

situations in professional sports in this country. After the events of the past few All-Star

games in Major League Baseball -- the "tie" was an embarrassment, and does anyone like tha "play for homefield in the World Series" concept? -- what's going on in MLS sounds 100 times more interesting.

The NBA All-Star Game is filled with gazillionaires trying not to get hurt. The Pro Bowl is

filled with all of the players who weren't smart enough to take the free trip to Hawaii

before coming down with some sort of pulled something-or-other. And the NHL All-Star Game is,

well ... you get the picture.

Lastly, to make the format even better, let's not tinker with the rules too much. No more

than seven substitutes should be allowed, which is fair, and rosters must be kept somewhere

around 20 or so.

One more thing: Am I pushing it by asking for a repeat performance of the Legends Game?

Marc Connolly writes for ESPN.com and

several other publications. This column runs each Wednesday on MLSnet.com and Marc can be

reached at marc@oakwoodsoccer.com. This story was

not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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