Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hey, My Over-30 Team Is Available

MLS struggles every year with its all-star game. A traditional one conference v. the other tends to water things down when your 11 players on each team (plus subs, of course) are drawn from only 5 or 6 teams. The US v. The World thing they tried in 1998 posed similar problems (there were only 2 "world" keepers in the league - some all stars!). The most successful was the 2003 version, which pitted an MLS best 11 against Mexican power Chivas. The atmosphere was great, the game was actually a game (not a 11-8 farce), and it led to Chivas setting up a club in Los Angeles. Last year the league wanted to do the same thing with mega club Real Madrid, but reverted to the East v. West format when el Galacticos pulled out. Obviously trying to recreate the vibe of 2003, the league today announced that this year's all-star game, in Columbus, will pit an MLS best 11 against -- Fulham?!

Oy. I've got nothing against Fulham itself - it's a perfectly serviceable English Premier League club with a long history, but it's hardly part of the English elite. In fact, the team is struggling to avoid relegation at this point, although they're in better shape than most clubs in a similar situation. I know the allure of bringing US stars Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride back to the US has something to do with it, but how appealing is this matchup going to be? It's not as if Fulham has the stateside following that ManU, Liverpool, or any of the top Mexican teams would have. What if Fulham barely escape the drop (with McBride riding the pine, no less)?

A better question might be why do we even need an MLS all-star game, particularly during a year crammed with World Cup qualifying?

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