The 2018 MLS All-Star Game is next week. There's a good chance this is news to you and, given the game's seemingly perpetual identity crisis, that's OK. It all began in 1996 with a traditional East-West format. In 1998, the MLS pitted their domestic stars vs. their international counterparts. Fours years later, they played the U.S. Men's National Team. After that, the MLS moved to their present-day format of All-Stars vs. random European mega-club...except for 2004, when they went back to East-West matchup for some reason. In other words, the only way to feel about the MLS All-Star Game is confused.
In those early days, however, lost in a kaleidoscope swirl of frosted tips, Microsoft Paint jersey designs, and format tinkering, lies a hidden gem of American sports: The MLS Skills Competition—an unabashedly Y2K grab-bag of semi-soccer related challenges including everything from long-kick competitions to something called "Goalie Wars", where two goalies would stand 10 yards apart and whip balls at one another's face until the other relented. Surfing the mighty swells of the internet this week, we caught a glimpse of this majestic white whale, and came away awestruck by its combination of power and beauty. BEHOLD:
Last year, the MLS soft relaunched the skills competition with a little help from EA Sports, pitting players against virtual FIFA training challenges in real life. This year, it returns in more or less the same form, with a mixture of present day players, MLS legends, and freestyle soccer stars set to test their "accuracy, technique, and teamwork" [snoreeeeee] via a series of unspecified skill tests.
Whatever MLS concocts, however, it simply won't compete with a striker blasting 12 rapid-fire shots down a helpless keeper's throat from the top of the box or measuring their PK giddy-up on a radar gun in the "Power Shot" competition. That kind of genius comes along once every generation, and we wasted it. We took you for granted, dear, sweet MLS Skills Competition, and if you give you us another chance, we promise it will never happen again.