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On Language: Why "Man of the Match" is outdated

NYCFC striker Gabriel Segal was named the Heineken Star of the Match when NYCFC played Columbus Crew in June
That's one way to put it | Courtesy NYCFC.com

Shortly after taking over Hudson River Blue, I made the decision to stop using Man of the Match in favor of Player of the Match. The reason was simple. As an editor, you look to streamline the jargon you use, and Player of Match covers more ground than Man of the Match.

POTM can be applied not just to the best player that game day for New York City FC, but also for Gotham FC, the NYCFC Academy, and every team we could possibly include in our pages. Editorially, it’s better to standardize language and use one term across all leagues. As we say in the newsroom, it’s an easy fix.

New York City stopped using MOTM this season, albeit for different reasons. NYCFC’s best player honors are sponsored by Heineken, and they use “Heineken Star of the Match.” Now the term is used by many of the MLS teams Heineken sponsors, including Atlanta United, Inter Miami, and Orlando City SC. (LAFC, which is sponsored by Heineken, uses Man of the Match.)

The beer giant used Man of the Match at NYCFC last year. But in previous years, Heineken used Star of the Match.

Why the back and forth? It’s hard to say, although I was told by an executive that inclusivity is one of the reasons why Star of the Match returned this year. It’s an elegant solution. Corporate branding often feels forced, but the term works nicely with the little red star in the Heineken logo.

MLS started using Player of the Matchday this season. It’s a slight shift from Player of the Week, which they used in previous years, and which ignored that the schedules of some teams saw them play three times in one week.

But many teams in MLS still use MOTM, which now feels outdated. Ideas evolve, and language has to keep up. Why have a term that you can only use for MLS and not for NWSL or youth leagues? Once upon a time, there were judges and lady judges. Now there are judges. There were nurses and male nurses. Now there are nurses. Once upon a time, there were linesmen. Now there are assistant referees. Easy fixes, every one.

It might take a little more for MLS clubs to move on from MOTM. When the award has a corporate sponsor any decision to change the term will mean jumping through a few C-Suite hoops. But surely Seattle Sounders and Toyota can sort it out, as can Toronto FC and Mill St. Brewery.

After all, what might have been completely normal in one era seems bonkerballs in the next.

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