Pointless all-star games have no place in professional sports, especially if they’re coming in the middle of the season. This was proven once again at this year’s MLS All-Star Game as Atlanta United defender Greg Garza’s injury early in the match may have significantly hurt the team’s playoff run this season. But could the injury open doors to greater MLS All-Star Games of the future?
Greg Garza’s Injury and the Future of the MLS All-Star Game
Garza, who’s contributed a goal and three assists as well as some great defensive performances this year, went down in the third minute after falling awkwardly on his right shoulder following some contact with Real Madrid’s Isco. The fall caused Garza to separate his shoulder. It’s not clear how long he’ll be out as of right now, but this isn’t an injury that heals quickly. This means that Garza will be out of the Atlanta lineup for a few weeks at best. He’ll be out against Sporting Kansas City, who proved that, even without Dom Dwyer, they’re still a scoring threat by finding the back of the net three times in their first game without the all-star. Atlanta will definitely miss Garza’s good defensive ability as well as his MLS defender-leading 26 chances created. The best case scenario for the Five Stripes is that he is back for the DC United game on August 23rd. Worst case scenario, he needs season-ending surgery.
MLS All-Star Games Of The Future
Despite all of this, I’m not saying we should eliminate the all-star game. I’m suggesting a revision. Make the game mean something. Make it not seem like you’re sending players out there to play a game that doesn’t matter. And how do you do that? You do what the MLB did for so long and let the leagues, or in this case the conferences, face off for the right to have home-field advantage in the championship. Let it be a team of Eastern Conference All-Stars facing a team of Western Conference All-Stars for the right to host the MLS Cup Final.
While doing this, the league should also adopt a rule requiring every team to have at least one representative at the all-star game, even if the player is on the bench, so that every fan base has a reason to watch the game. They could also try to add in a televised event the day before the game, including a skills challenge similar to what the NBA has. The league doesn’t need to bring in one of the best teams in the world to have eyes on the game. Make the game more interesting or make the game worth something and I think they’d have just as many viewers if not more.
Since we’re making all of these changes, we might as well change the Homegrown Game. Why not mix it up and have a team of the best academy players from across the country take on a team of the best rookies? Or a team of rookies and academy players takes on a USL all-star team? The league could eliminate the need for a foreign opponent to come in and could showcase even more young talent within MLS.
I see no point in retaining this same MLS vs European team format, besides exposure for the league. But at this point, I think that MLS is better off overhauling their current format and going to a game with something on the line, instead of throwing players out there to risk injury in a game that doesn’t even matter.