This week Major League Soccer announced the league would be holding its annual All-Star Game in Orlando in 2019. I have to admit, it was hard for me to get excited about a game that I have annually denounced as being unnecessary and outdated.
Still, as a loyal son of the City Beautiful and a passionate Orlando City supporter, I found a couple of ways to greet the prospects with a bit of joy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely sure I’ll attend the celebratory weekend, but maybe I can find a bright spot or two.
First, and most obvious, Orlando does these kinds of events right! These showcase events are the types of events a city like Orlando was quite literally built for. Both NBA All-Star weekends in Orlando have been massive successes, while it seems the NFL Pro Bowl people are happy with Orlando as a site for their seasonal curtain closer. The city has been a long-time host to college bowl games, a FIFA World Cup host city, and has entertained Olympic soccer.
These events work well here with Orlando’s tourist infrastructure creating a fantastic weekend for fans, while locals seem to always be drawn to a big event. For MLS, having the game in Orlando has to be an easy decision. Heck, we were successful hosts of the MLS All-Star game long before we were in the league.
Second, this is good for Orlando City. We have all already long ago faced up to the stark reality that there is no good news following this soccer club around these days. Unlike a normal Florida storm, these dark clouds looming over the team don’t seem to be gone after 15 minutes. As we all prepare for the fortitude it will take to get our hopes up for next season, it’s nice to see Don Garber and the MLS posse in town with something nice to say about us.
MLS has tight control over the management of its media, league narratives, and image. The powers that be will make Orlando look great in the run-up and during the All-Star events. While I’m still not sure what 11 players from different MLS teams playing a European club side proves, it’s nice to have some good press for the club I love for once.
Finally, and this is the one thing I always keep in mind, just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean others don’t. The game exists and persists for a reason. Other aspects of “Americanized soccer” have come and gone (RIP Colorado Caribou fringe and the 1-v-1 penalty shootout) but the All-Star Game has become tradition.
Maybe next year is the year I forego my “OMG, I hate the MLS All-Star Game” article and head down to the stadium and enjoy the game and see if I’ve been wrong about it all these years. Don’t book my ticket yet, but I’ll keep an open mind.
Hey, at least Orlando City players won’t have to travel!