The 2016 Major League Soccer All Star Game was by all accounts a roaring success. Soccer fans from all across California and beyond converged in San Jose, California where the pristine Avaya Stadium played host to a sampling of the leagues’ brightest stars.
Anticipation was palpable in the buildup to the game as Arsenal and MLS fans filled the Fanfest concourse hours before kickoff. The Arsenal contingent in particular was vocal with chants and songs of their favorite players.
Didier Drogba, Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, Giovanni Dos Santos, David Villa and other expensive imports lined up alongside the likes of Keegan Rosenberry, Kyle Beckerman, David Bingham and Kellyn Acosta to face an Arsenal side clearly in preseason mode.
The majority of the 18,000 seats at Avaya were filled by red and white Gooner fans who watched on in glee as the North London side posted a 2-1 over the MLS All Stars. Costa Rican Joel Campbell opened the scoring from the penalty spot after being hauled down in the area by Belgian defender Laurent Ciman. Didier Drogba later equalized the scoreline on the stroke of halftime after his third attempt in rapid succession finally pierced the shield raised by his former Chelsea teammate, Petr Cech.
Mass changes ensued at the interval and throughout the second half as MLS All Star head coach Dom Kinnear rang the changes. The rhythm of the game faltered in the second half but Arsenal managed to poach a late goal through youngster Chuba Akpom to claim a victory in this high-profile exhibition game.
While the MLS All Star game is largely an event to celebrate the growth, strength, and success of the league, the real celebration of MLS’ marquee talent show of the year was the news that MLS Commissioner Don Garber revealed at halftime. Garber joined the ESPN broadcast team and revealed that there will be an announcement regarding expansion “in a couple of weeks.”
Fast forward to Monday and a Bloomberg Sports report with comments from MLS deputy commission Mark Abbot indicating that future league expansion fees could possibly reach up to $200 million.
MLS currently consists of 20 teams with another 4 expansion clubs lined up to join the league in the next two years. Atlanta United and current NASL (North American Soccer League) team Minnesota United are due in 2017 and LAFC is slated for 2018. David Beckham’s Miami expansion franchise is still tentatively due to join the league 2018 along with the new Los Angeles based super club.
After that next round of expansion things become murkier. Detroit, Sacramento and St. Louis, followed by San Antonio, San Diego, Nashville and Cincinnati have all established themselves as candidates for the additional 4 places already allocated for expansion.
Sadly for San Diegans, America’s Finest City appears to be miles behind all of the aforementioned markets. While there have been reports for some time linking the border town with MLS, San Diego is currently the least developed soccer city amongst the cities above with only two NPSL clubs coming off their inaugural campaigns calling the city home.
Detroit City FC is also an NPSL club, but has gained national attention for their incredible attendance in recent years. San Antonio, Sacramento, St. Louis and Cincinnati all currently have USL teams competing on the field today and Nashville has been granted an expansion slot for the USL next year.
Unless something changes drastically soon, San Diego may not have the chance to host the MLS All Star Game like it did the MLB All Star Game with such distinction just a few short weeks ago.