1. It means something
We get it. Baseball’s take on the All-Star Game decides home-field advantage, meaning that there will be a difference this fall between playing in the bandbox known as Citizens Bank Park or the bandbox known as Fenway. Yawn.
But in the MLS, which usually features the league’s best 11 against a foreign club, they carry the pride of the league on its shoulders.
This year, the MLS side plays Manchester United, the English Premier League champions and one of the top teams in the world. It is an opportunity to showcase the best players in MLS against a storied team.
That means far more to a player on the MLS roster than home-field advantage in the World Series means to a player 10 games out.
2. A diverse offering of styles
In the NBA All-Star Game — and certainly in the Pro Bowl — defense is a dirty word. The star-studded games are dominated by windmill dunks or long touchdown passes.
Every trip down the court, every pass, they try to make a highlight reel play. It grows tiresome by the end of the first quarter.
But with the MLS, there will be a meshing of styles and personalities all forced to work together against Manchester United. Red Bulls star Thierry Henry will become teammates with Revolution rival Shalrie Joseph for one night. It makes for a unique blend of talents and skill where no one wants to get shown up.
3. The emerging stars
Landon Donovan scored four times in the 2001 All-Star Game, one year before he became a star in the World Cup, to help establish himself as a true star on the rise.
Then there was MetroStars goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played superbly in goal despite the 6-6 scoreline from that wild game. Donovan has gone on to be the most talented American player ever developed and Howard, playing in the English Premier League, is one of the top goalkeepers in the world.
The MLS All-Star Game has a tradition of young players emerging on the grand stage, and this year could be Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo, who was hand-picked by league commissioner Don Garber to play.