What is it about the news today that the planned MLS All-Star game against Real Madrid so amusing? Certainly, it could have been a great event for ABC to broadcast. However, I do not think Don Garber and co really thought things through very well. When MLS first announced the match up, it was due to take place in June. With Real Madrid possibly being involved, the date of the match was moved to go up against the ChampionsWorld Series which involved just about every other major team in Europe not in Spain. ChampionsWorld had their schedule set, and ABC only seemed to have one time slot available so MLS vs. Real would go up against Manchester United and Milan. Oops.
Then, a month or so before the scheduled date for the match, Real Madrid decide their preseason tour could make more money be going to Japan. The solution was to have an MLS XI head to Spain to play the match in the famed Bernabeu Stadium. Of course, the fact that it would take star players away from MLS teams during the run up to the playoffs and even cause the Open Cup final to possibly need to be moved didn’t effect the decision. No, it was all done to promote the brand regardless of the effect it had on the product.
So, when I read that they (MLS and Real Madrid) decided it would not happen this year, I just had to laugh.
Now, I know a lot of the desire to get a match against Real Madrid stems from the way ChampionsWorld has ignored MLS. I am sure the fact that Manchester United played Club America at the Coliseum in LA last summer rather than a match (possibly against LA Galaxy) at the Home Depot Center as LA GM Doug Hamilton had told Galaxy fans would happen had nothing to do with it.
Here is an idea for Mr. Gerbar, the next time some big Club in Europe wants to sign an MLS player. It has become a common practice these days when smaller lower league teams lose a star to top-level teams to make a friendly part of the deal. Last year Ipswich sold Darrin Ambrose to Newcastle. Part of the deal was that Newcastle would come (with all their stars) to Ipswich for a preseason match before the next season: An added cost of the transfer. Ipswich then had a match against a quality Premiership side and could make a few extra quid at the gate. Everyone wins.
Just think of the possibilities. If MLS had told PSV Eindhoven that in order to sign DaMarcus Beasley, they would have to come over before their 2005-06 season and play friendlies against MLS teams. Of course, they would have to insure that Beasley would have to play in the match against Chicago Fire. At a time when MLS players are more in demand by Europe’s best, why not use that approach. True, it may reduce transfer fees, but look what it will bring in return.
As for the All-Star Game, wouldn’t the sport in this country be better served if that weekend was instead used as the round of the Open Cup that MLS teams enter? You will open the league to a much larger audience than the ABC broadcast of some marketing run match up. MLS teams playing in various non-MLS markets on a weekend rather than mid-week? Just think of the potential.
Of course, I am sure the brain trust at MLS HQ have already played with those ideas and thrown them out so never mind.