The MLS All-Star Game has gone through a curious series of rebranding shape-shifts that’ve often left the spectacle feeling like more of a bizarrely arbitrary afterthought. It began in the typical American way, the league splitting the teams into an East and a West for two years until, in an odd spasm of decision-making, the league pitted its American players against its international players in 1998. It lasted one year.
The number of times the game has switched formats in the ensuing decade was dizzying. MLS went back to the East/West format for the next three years before switching to the All-Star format for the 2002 and 2003 seasons. For whatever it’s worth, MLS won both games, cannibalizing on a USMNT side in 2002 and dropping Guadalajara in 2003.
Finally, we went back to the East/West format one more time in 2004 before going back to the All-Star format for good in 2005. Got that?
In the nine MLS All-Star Games since, a selection of MLS players have played Manchester United and Chelsea twice, Fulham, Celtic, West Ham, Everton and Roma. Bayern Munich is bringing its historic team Stateside this summer for No. 10. Casual diversions, all. An “Us Versus Them” game that’s always felt vaguely like an unnecessary defense of the league’s vitality. A relic of a bygone era.
And it’s time it ended.