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Major League Soccer MVP Voting Popularity Contest is Petty and Needs to Stop

MLS award voters got a little slice of Italy, and a loot bag from Columbus today. What they should be focusing on, however, is what the players have done on the field.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

With Justin Trudeau being elected Prime Minister of Canada, it's on to the next election, the appointment of the all important Major League Soccer MVP. The campaign is already well under way as rival parties Toronto FC and Columbus Crew look to see their candidate anointed with the prestigious honour.

The early polls appear to suggest that the favourite remains Sebastian Giovinco, the Toronto FC star who has put together a record breaking inaugural MLS season. Also on the ballet is the upstart Kei Kamara, who while also putting up impress number trails behind Giovinco in several key statistics. Nice hair though.

Today the candidates ramped up their campaigning, trying to keep themselves fresh in the minds of voters when they get to the ballot box. Toronto FC sent pizzas to media outlets emblazoned with a pepperoni-created number 10. Meanwhile, the Columbus Crew sent out a package of Kei Kamara products in a box emblazoned with the hashtag #Kei4MVP.

There's only one problem, this isn't supposed to be a campaign, it's supposed to be based on what the player does on the field. Turning it into an election style popularity contest does nothing for the validity of the award, or the reputation of the league, even if most media members have already voted.

To be fair, all award voting is some form of popularity contest anyway. There are definitely certain biases that help players win awards, such as where they play and how much exposure they get in that market.

But MLS is setting a troubling precedent here by allowing teams to parade around their player like this is some sort of high school student council election.

There have been other examples of this before, notably Tesho Akindele's Napoleon Dynamite spoof last year, released in his campaign to become the league's rookie of the year. Akindele ultimately won the award; how much the video played a part in that is debatable but certainly worth noting.

Videos have also become a part of this year's MVP "campaign", with Toronto FC releasing a short message to voters entitled "Vote Sebastian Giovinco for Major League Soccer MVP". A week ago, the Columbus Crew released a similar video showing all of Kei Kamara's 22 goals from this year's MLS season.

All of this would be fine, encouraged in fact, especially in the case of a humorous Akindele, if it related to something less significant like the Major League Soccer All-Star game.

However, in North American sports especially, most valuable player awards are just that, valuable. They are one of the key criteria to defining whether a player's career was successful or not, and command respect among those who cover and watch the game as well.

That is why it is the goals, the assists, the plays, the leadership and the on-field accomplishments of these players should be the only criteria under which anyone considers voting for these awards.

Evidently, Major League Soccer likely can't stay in the way of this nonsense from a rules standpoint. However, it would be worthwhile for them to encourage their teams to stop attempting cheap tricks like this on voting day.

At the end trying to bribe voters into picking a certainly player for MVP would be considered bush league by any other major league in North America. Watching Major League Soccer clubs degrade the award like this is disappointing.