The 2019 MLS All-Star game will be hosted on July 31 vs. Atlético Madrid. This year will be slightly different as skills challenges will be introduced. The skills challenge will take place on July 30th and the format is set to mimic other sports display of skills; for instance, baseball has a home run derby contest and basketball has the slam dunk contest, three-point contest, and skills challenge.
The MLS skills challenge will consist of shooting, passing, and touch and volley skills. Three teams will be in competition including the MLS all-stars, Orlando City FC, and Atlético Madrid. The MLS all-star team includes LA Galaxy’s Jonathan dos Santos, D.C. United’s Wayne Rooney, and LAFC’s Carlos Vela.
LA Galaxy Nominations
Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimović was nominated as a forward and dos Santos as a midfielder. This is the second nomination for both players. This may be Zlatan’s first appearance, as last season he didn’t participate due to extensive travel and play in such a short period of time. He was suspended for one regular-season match following the MLS all-star game for not participating. This year’s MLS game is no different as it falls in the middle of the Galaxy’s busy travel schedule.
The Galaxy will play on July 27th in Portland, the MLS all-star game on July 31st in Florida, and then and on August 3rd in Atlanta. If Zlatan and dos Santos play in the exhibition match they will participate in three games in one week, including travel.
Jonathan dos Santos will also have to participate in the skills challenge on the 30th, which pushes his participation in events to four in one week. Not to mention, dos Santos is coming off playing extra games for the Gold Cup under the Mexican national team. This leads to the next question. Does the all-star game benefit MLS players?
Should The All-Star Game Change Format or Timing?
The all-star game is a fun display of talent and camaraderie. It provides the players no major incentives to participate except for entertainment and recognition, but if you’re already an international star you don’t need recognition on a large scale. So why should players participate if the MLS places the games right in the middle of their busy schedule? Technically players don’t have to participate, but in the past, they faced fines and currently they face suspension per MLS rules. The major incentive to participate may be to enjoy the limelight, avoid punishment, and market the MLS.
MLS changed the format from West vs. East teams to MLS all-stars vs. a major international team. This change has exposed current MLS talent and promoted the growth of the league; however, not everyone is supportive of the all-star game. Sure the game provides a who’s who of MLS fútbol, and fun for the spectators, but fans that care more about regular-season games aren’t behind it. In fact, some fans will opt not to vote or will vote for random players from other teams to avoid exposing their stars to injury or fatigue.
Social media is also mixed on the topic as some teams and fans want their players to represent the MLS and others don’t seem to care as much. If the timing of the game changed or if the MLS gave a bye-week during the all-star game, opinions on the subject could change. For now, it’s a fun display of talent, but it can weigh heavy on some players based on their schedule.