MLS is getting ready for its 21st All-Star Game. An event that began with a traditional American East vs. West format morphed into an MLS All Stars vs. a foreign club contest, which has continued to this day. But which way is better, and what are some other options? We rank the best MLS All-Star formats, some of which are real and have been used, and others which could be considered going forward.
Getty ImagesDustin Bradford
Playground pickup style
The NHL has used this format already. Basically, enough all stars to fill two teams are picked, as well as two captains. Then the two captains take turns picking their teams. It's not any different than when you show up to a pickup game with a bunch of people. You take turns picking players and then get a game going. It's ... fine. But with MLS still not exactly stacked with star power and wanting to use the All-Star Game to show off some burgeoning stars, this format isn't nearly as appealing.
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY SportsJean-Yves Ahern
East vs. West
MLS used this format at the beginning and it worked. They were able to get all of their biggest stars into the game, some lesser-known players and their youngsters. They all got a chance to shine and, with nobody particularly interested in who wins, the players had no issue trying tricks to make things fun. Of course, the lack of competition and stakes does have its downsides.
MLS All-Stars vs. foreign team
This is the format the league is using now and when they get Bayern Munich, Manchester United or another giant club to come, it brings a nice spotlight to the league. The MLS team wants to represent the league well too, so the stakes are raised a bit. But there is the downside of the foreign team being in preseason and using a bunch of reserves. And then there are the years where the foreign team is someone like West Ham and interest is lacking.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesLars Baron
USA vs. World
MLS has more great players than ever before and the depth of the league has never been this good. They don't need a foreign team to come in for them to put on a good show now. But the East vs. West format lacks any drama or stakes. An alternative? Having the best American players in MLS take on the best from the rest of the world. Canada could go on either team. But this way you still get to feature great players, it's a fun game where players can have fun and there's still somewhat of a rooting interest for fans with something on the line.
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY SportsChris Humphreys
MLS All-Stars vs. Liga MX All-Stars
This isn't exactly a brand new idea, but it's still the best one. The U.S. vs. Mexico soccer rivalry is incredible and expanding it to the All-Star Game would be fun. This would probably require that MLS move the game up a couple weeks to before the start of the Liga MX season, but that's plenty do-able. The star power in this game would be huge, it would be a great way to expose fans of both leagues to the other and there is no better way to grow the entire soccer market in the U.S. This is the dream.