It seems to be a debate that bubbles up every July, and the same is true again this year: What should be the format of the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target going forward?
The 14th edition of the current model that pits a European club against the MLS All-Stars takes place tonight, when the best of MLS takes on defending Serie A champion Juventus (7:30 pm ET | ESPN, UniMás, TSN, TVAS) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But is it time for a change?
In the league’s early years, five of the first six games were in an East vs. West format, with amn MLS USA vs. MLS World one-off configuration in 1998.
The first time a united MLS All-Star team faced a guest team was in 2002 when they took on the U.S. national team. That was followed by a match against Chivas de Guadalajara in 2003.
In 2004, East vs. West was revisited for one year before the MLS All-Stars vs. Europe run began with the league's best taking on an English team with a history of featuring American players, Premier League side Fulham.
There has also been chatter about possibly having the MLS All-Stars meet some of the best players from Liga MX as part of the expanded partnership between the leagues.
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who previously played for Chivas USA from 2005-08 before spending nine years in the Premier League, has enjoyed both the MLS All-Stars vs. Europe and East vs. West format.
“I grew up watching the East vs. West and all the different skills challenges. In terms of the competition and playing some of the biggest clubs in the world, that part is great. It’s exciting,” Guzan said at a press conference Monday. “At the same time, I think there’s something to be said for the fact that the league has grown so much in a short amount of time that you probably could get away with playing East vs. West and still have a fantastic game with a fantastic turnout. I think it could go either way and I don’t think you’d have a drop in popularity, quality or anything like that.”
“I think that in these last years, the league has grown a lot,” Giovinco said. “Still, these type of games against the best teams in Europe help them understand what level MLS is at. So we welcome these games.”