Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fans Can't Get This One Wrong

AP Photo/ Jeff Roberson

All-Star games are meant to showcase a league’s elite players.

Often, players having career years are rewarded. However, there is always a debate on who really deserved to make it and who didn’t.

Take the previous NBA All-Star game. Many pondered how Allen Iverson was voted to start for the Eastern Conference and how Carmelo Anthony was left off the West’s squad.

Part of the reason roster spots go to candidates that aren’t as deserving is because of the fan vote. Allowing fans to pick who they want to see is a double-edged sword.

The league is getting the fans to feel like they are involved and they get to select the players they want to see play, hopefully providing optimum ratings.

However, the voting can be a popularity contest, and guys with big names who may not be producing like they have in the past, or are injured, can slide into one of the top spots.

Still, the fan vote isn’t a bad thing and in no league is it more important than in Major League Soccer.

MLS doesn’t have the fellowship that the other leagues in America have. While the Pro Bowl can go unnoticed by NFL fans because of how big the regular season and postseason is, MLS needs its All-Star game to showcase its top players on a national stage.

Having people vote for the players they want to see allows the league to put out the most appealing team in hopes of drawing in viewers.

While I love to see unheralded players get recognition for amazing seasons, it’s OK for MLS to have its biggest names front and center to show what the league has to offer.

Take a guy like Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan. This has definitely not been his best year in the league.In eight games, he has only managed to register one assist. Kljestan was even benched in one game. But there’s no denying he’s one of the league’s biggest stars.

Kljestan has performed at a high level in both past MLS seasons and the U.S. men’s national team. He is going to be an integral part of the national team for years to come, and is becoming a very recognizable name to American soccer fans.

If Klejstan hasn’t transferred to a club overseas by the time this year’s All-Star game rolls around, and he is voted in regardless of his stats, is it a bad thing?

No, because fans want to see him. Maybe fans of possible transfer targets will want to watch him, to see what he has. Whatever the reason, he will draw in viewers, something MLS desperately needs.

Currently, eight of the top 11 spots in the All-Star voting are held by members of Seattle Sounders FC. Some—Kasey Keller—are certainly deserving. Others—Sebastian LeToux—aren’t as deserving. But the Sounders’ fans are making their voices heard. This is who they want to see. They sure will be watching the game.

While the fan vote is only a quarter of the criteria for making the team, it still sends a message to the league of who the fans like.

Don’t agree? Vote for yourself. Vote for who you want to see play.

The most important thing for MLS is to get its most liked and most marketable players on the pitch in order to further promote the league. Even if that means playing guys who aren’t having the best season.

Like the popular phrase in the business world goes, the customer is always right.

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