About a year ago on this site, I wrote an article about why I would not be watching the MLS All Stars face off against Manchester United at Red Bull Arena. In essence, I felt that another meaningless friendly, but this time with a collection of MLS talent instead of just one team, didn’t peak my interest:
For the record, I tend not to watch all star games of sports I enjoy. No matter what the schtick (players pick teams, domestic v. foreign, winner gets homefield), if the game doesn’t count for something meaningful then I tend to enjoy it less. And that I think is the root cause of my lack of interest in tonight’s game.
Except for a major injury, no matter what happens on the pitch tonight it won’t matter. No trophies will be awarded, no points towards a final goal will be given, and there is nothing for MLS to gain from this match. If anything, there’s more to lose: witness the press surrounding last year’s game. I may be in the minority, but when there is so little at stake in a game I have little impetus to watch it on television.
In the past I have stated that I enjoy international friendlies; does this make me a hypocrite? Not at all, because I think the key difference is that I am watching this game on television. I can watch Manchester United on ESPN2 plenty of times in the coming months, in games that matter. If I were at Red Bull Arena and feeling the atmosphere of the game, I would be more excited and interested. But I am relegated to my couch, so I lose the atmosphere of the game and what appeals to me most about friendlies: seeing a team I can’t normally see play in-person.
A year later, it’s another Premier League team visiting our shores to face our collection of the best of the best (or, the best available). While Chelsea has a bit more prestige, having just won the UEFA Champions League, the scenario is basically the same. The only two differences that will maybe convince me to watch tonight are the arena and the head coach. Philadelphia’s soccer stadium has one of the best views in the league, and I enjoy watching games in HD played there simply because the view is unparalleled. The second reason is Ben Olsen. The DC united head coach is an up-and-coming manager with an oversized personality. How he manages his roster of all stars and enjoys the moment could be fun to see.
Does all this mean I will be tuning in tonight? Probably not. Because at the end of the day, the game doesn’t mean anything. An MLS win will be portrayed as them beating a traveling team tuning up for the season, while another loss to an EPL side will further cast doubt on MLS as product (rightly or wrongly). I’ll take a pass on this one and wait for a match that actually determines something in the standings.