There are 10 MLS award categories — 11 including Best XI. That might seem like a lot, but there are cracks that dozens of deserving names fall through every year. As it stands, not everyone who deserves recognition gets it. That’s just a fact, both of MLS and in life.
Look no further than the newly-christened AT&T Young Player of the Year. Creating the award was the right decision. It filled a clear hole. Youth development in MLS is so much bigger than the SuperDraft. The league was simply updating with the times to honor Homegrown Players whose pro careers started in USL and international prospects who were getting paid to play before they got to North America.
On the other hand…
One crack was filled, but another opened where there wasn’t a crack before! Damned if you don’t and, depending on your perspective, damned if you do.
Enter Extratime driven by Continental, where our mission is to break outside the “official” categories in order to ensure everyone in MLS gets the shine their performances/role/whatever-random-category-pops-into-our-heads deserves. That’s why, starting in 2020, we’ll be handing out the SuperDraft Player of the Year as part of our annual Continental Awards. Fear not Henry Kessler and Daryl Dike. We’ve got the college player covered.
Shout out to the fullbacks and the defensive midfielders, too, who have Continental Awards all their own. Why do they need them, you ask? Well, no outside back has ever won MLS Defender of the Year. Only Todd Dunivant, Justin Morrow and Kemar Lawrence have chipped away at the center-back hegemony in the Best XI over the past decade. Despite a lockdown d-mid being a prerequisite to win MLS Cup, only Eduard Atuesta, Dax McCarty and Osvaldo Alonso have found a way to muscle their way into the league first team since 2010.
We’ll release this year’s officially unofficial Continental Award categories on Monday’s Extratime. Keep your eye on our Twitter account, where we’ll solicit nominations in every category before crowning the winners following the regular season. It’s my second favorite show of the year, after our predictions special.
In the meantime, here are some listener-suggested award categories, with current finalists and winners, that just missed the cut but were fun to put together and I hope fun to read!
Leveled-Up Best XI
Via David in Skokie, Ill.
For the end-of-year awards, I'd be interested in a leveled-up Best XI. This would be for players who made the biggest improvement year over year, or guys who added a new weapon to their game. Jordan Morris would certainly be on the team, perhaps Gianluca Busio. There are plenty of others.