Yael T. Abouhalkah

Sorry, but Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game not that big a deal

Updated: 2013-07-30T23:55:54Z

By Yael T. Abouhalkah

The Kansas City Star

Professional soccer is the smallest major league sport in America or the biggest minor league one, depending on your viewpoint of the sport.

Soccer’s fanatics in this city (and there are many) plus many local tourism officials are excited that the Major League Soccer All-Star Game will be played Wednesday night at Sporting Park.

It’s a good way for the city to get a little publicity, and The Star on Sunday published the latest in a long line of “soccer is winning over America” stories.

And here comes the “but.”

But, the MLS All-Star Game is not really that big of a deal in the U.S. world of sports.

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game of 2012 — played at Kauffman Stadium — received far more national and local publicity than the MLS game will receive. There were good reasons for that, starting with the fact that baseball’s history in this nation is far more substantial than soccer’s.

Plus, the All-Star Game had not been held in Kansas City for almost 40 years.

The 2012 game brought around 40,000 people to Kauffman; the Sporting Park crowd likely will be a sellout but less than 20,000 people.

The MLB All-Star baseball game brought in all kinds of well-publicized players who have been household words for many American sports observers for years.

By contrast, almost no one but the most earnest soccer fans knows who will be on the Sporting Park field Wednesday night. It won’t even pit MLS players against each other; the opponent will be AS Roma (yes, I know, who?)

OK: Unfair shot. Actually, here’s a good look at the team from The Star, including the fact that it finished 6th in the top Italian league last year and hasn’t won that league in more than a decade.

The MLS All-Star Game will be televised, but on ESPN2.

Here’s a recent post on viewership of MLS games; obviously the numbers aren’t that big of a deal at all, when compared with major league football, baseball and basketball. Note: The story also points out that being on ESPN is better than being on ESPN2.

Meanwhile, for all the great publicity about soccer being a sport that everyone is gravitating to when they are 10 years old or younger, it’s not exactly the top sport for high school players in America.

In fact, it’s fifth most popular for both boys and girls. For boys, it’s behind football, track and field, basketball and baseball. For girls, it’s behind track and field, basketball, volleyball and softball.

You don’t have to be a soccer lover or hater to realize that having an All-Star Game in Kansas City is a special deal.

It’s just not that big of one in the overall scheme of things for sports fans.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/YaelTAbouhalkah.

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