The second invitation to Major League Soccer's All-Star Game provided a better result than the first time around for Manchester United. While the Red Devils remain undefeated against the MLS All-Stars, the 4-0 shutout on Wednesday night sent a clear message that Major League Soccer's best still have a ways to go to reach the level of play abroad.
Coming off a successful FIFA Women's World Cup, the United States and the women's professional soccer in the United States is revelling in the spotlight as attendance has significantly increased for the WPS in recent weeks and players are continue to find time for the spotlight
During a recent interview with former United States Men's National Team Goalkeeper Tony Meola, the boost provided by this year's Women's World Cup will provide a spark similar to that of the Men's World Cup in 1994 in order to create a sustainable professional soccer league.
"Success in the World Cup is measured in a lot of different ways," Meola said. "When the men were going through it in 1994, success was measured by advancing out of the first round, and of course, success was measured by the most attended World Cup ever and that is what helped spring Major League Soccer and jump start it."
Meola added that every four years the women's national team is held to a higher standard and much is expected from them.
"Every time [the women's team] step out on the field they are expected to win and it didn't turn out that way for them but I still think that they were compelling," he explained. "In the end they missed some opportunities to beat a Japanese team and I am sure they will think back on that and think that was a game they should have won. All in all I think that the story was compelling enough to keep people interested in the women's game."
In light of the women's FIFA World Cup victory in 1999 and their continued olympic success in 2004 and 2008, Meola added that players abroad are taking advantage of the professional league available in the United States – a luxury that previously was composed of mostly American players.
"The women for so many years dominated that sport and dominated the world of soccer," Meola said. "Now with a lot of those other players playing in America whether it is in college or playing in the WPS, they are getting the experience that was only afforded to American girls."
Meola also discussed the recent Major League Soccer All-Star Game. He commented on both the current selection process and the need to have the league's best talent when competing against the likes of Manchester United and other European clubs in recent years.
"It is an All-Star game and the fans have to have a say. Ultimately, when I was playing I think it was one-third the fans, one-third the players and a third the coaches," he explained. "You have to understand part of it is a popularity contest and that should still be part of the All-Star game but from a standpoint we would probably be best served to have the best players."
Despite the fans not having the entire say in who is selected, Meola commends the fans as they have come a long way in terms of their knowledge of the game.
"There is no reason to take the fans vote out of it because there are more educated fans now than there has ever been," he said.
With two of the league's most senior players, both who have played a number of years abroad, being selected for this year's All-Star Game, Meola explains the importance of experience as a goalkeeper.
"[Keller and Mondragon] have earned it. In that position, especially, you want experience," Meola added. "In one regard it stinks for American goalkeepers because the MLS is the way you get the experience and we have been taking some foreign goalkeepers. For the most part, coaches these days don't have the luxury of 'sticking with the young guy.' Their fuses are short and they want to win now. It is a credit to those guys. If Kasey wanted to he could player another two or three years."
With Tim Howard recently commenting that he would someday like to return to Major League Soccer, Meola provided his opinion.
"[Tim Howard] can play for a long time. My best guess having spoken to him is that he will be. If you look at our league and all those guys playing overseas and if all things were equal, our league would be outstanding."
Meola is currently working with United States Men's National Team and Major League Soccer sponsor, Allstate to promote the game in MLS markets, especially among the game's youngest fans. Allstate set up several events surrounding the All-Star Game.
"The majority is media promotion around the game. First is the Allstate Soccer Celebration. I am sure I will see some old Red Bulls fans."
For additional information about Allstate, please visit their website at www.allstate.com.
Christopher Savino is a columnist for Goal.com. His feature, "Business Off The Pitch" appears every Monday. Contact Chris at email@example.com with questions, comments and concerns or follow him on Twitter @chrissavino.