The MLS All-Star roster selection process needs to be streamlined to showcase the game to its best advantage. It’s time to focus on the selected MLS players and the All-Star opponent and cut back on the tortuous voting process, which overshadows the game. MLS execs treat the voting process, so convoluted that voting is meaningless, as an opportunity to further monetize the event, but it appears to be a poor promotional device. The 2015 All-Star Game drew only a 0.3 rating and 548,000 viewers, down 36% in viewership from last year.
On July 29, the MLS All-Stars, coached by Pablo Mastroeni, defeated EPL Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado for a crowd of 18,671 fans. Orlando City SC star Kaka deservedly was named game MVP for scoring the first goal and setting up David Villa for the second for the 2-0 lead by only the 23rd minute. The Spurs’ Harry Kane spoiled the shutout 10 minutes later for the final 2-1 result.
However, the All-Star event itself was preceded by a voting process for media, fans, players, staff, commissioner and coach that dragged on for three months and somehow dwarfed the game. As part of that process, with his own two picks, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made the dubious decision to include two new designated players – Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard – both who had not yet played a minute in MLS. This is wrong for a couple reasons. First, it overlooks deserving MLS players, appreciative of both the honor and the stipend. Second, it shows that voting is more of a marketing gimmick than a meaningful opportunity for fans to choose the kind of players that inspire them. Lampard was injured and Garber later replaced him with Dax McCarty and Mastroeni replaced injured Gerrard, but the commissioner’s pick was a distraction from the game.
This year, fans also decided the All-Star captain on Snapchat by voting on the three players nominated by coach Mastroeni. Snapchat fans could vote as many times as they wanted in the 24-hour voting period. Right there, expectations for the quality of the game are reduced. Obviously, this is not the best way to choose a captain to best manage the thrown-together soccer stars in a high profile game.
Current MLS All-Star selection process
A total of 32 All-Stars are named each year, per the collective bargaining agreement. Media members nominate 160 players to the fan ballot, from which fans choose one goalkeeper, three defenders, four midfielders and three forwards for the Starting XI. It sounds simple, but voting drags on from May 27 through July 3, via several methods. Fans can vote on MLSsoccer.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and by playing FIFA 15, they can select one forward spot on the All-Star Fan XI. The roster was first released on July 18th, but it continued to evolve until the day of the game.
The All-Star head coach then selects the game day roster from the pool of eligible players from the Fan XI and Garber’s two selections and players who received votes from at least two players. Then, MLS players choose the remainder of the 32 All-Stars, which is designated the “inactive roster.” Then, the roster changes again, when players pull out of the game due to injuries and other unavailability, so Mastroeni added five replacement players on July 28 and two more on July 29th. The final list of four goalkeepers, eight defenders, 13 midfielders and seven forwards was announced on July 29, the day of the game. Then, Mastroeni completely changed teams at the half to the effect that the squad only got off two off-target shots in the second half and certainly did not play their best.
MLS would do better to accomplish the complete roster selection in two weeks and spend the following two-week build-up to the game showcasing the players and possible match-ups with the opponent and include an additional practice to improve performance. The initiatives regarding fans choosing the captain on Snapchat and choosing a forward by playing FIFA should be scrapped. MLS has a broader base than that. Also, the Commissioner’s picks should also be scrapped and when the CBA is renegotiated, the number of All-Stars should be limited to around 25, not the superfluous 32. The roster selection should be simplified to put the focus on the high quality players MLS boasts, not league marketing and bureaucracy.
Final All-Star game day roster and minutes
MLS All-Stars — Rimando (Irwin 46); Beltran (Moor 46), Gonzalez (Ciman 46), Besler (Marshall 46), Beasley (Francis 46); Zusi (Finlay 46), McCarty (Juninho 46), Kaka (Cronin 46; Altidore 77), Zardes (Castillo 46); Dempsey (Feilhaber 46), Villa (Kamara 46).
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