Major League Soccer's best are coming to America's heartland, and the country's crown jewel soccer-specific stadium, LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, is set to get another dose of royal treatment and exposure it so rightly deserves and has garnered since its opening in June 2011. MLS and Sporting Kansas City announced in conjunction with one another on Thursday that the 2013 MLS All-Star Game will be played at the beautiful, $180 million Kansas City, Kan. venue on July 31.
MLS commissioner Don Garber was on hand at LIVESTRONG to make the announcement official, coinciding with the league's official release of the entire 2013 regular season schedule on Wednesday. Sporting KC have been given a role as one of the league's true headliners, snapping up 13 nationally televised games in 2013.
"This market has been so incredibly exciting," Garber said during the announcement press conference on Thursday. "[Kansas City] has been one of the great, great success stories for our sport ... This is a story I don't think we could have written many years ago. Here we are 17 years later (following the league's birth) with Sporting Kansas City, a team that resonates so tremendously well in this market."
The desire to showcase the Kansas City soccer scene also made the decision to stage the league's on-field summer spectacle at LSP an easy decision for MLS executives.
"We said when we came here for the groundbreaking and the opening of this stadium, we would be back with special events," Garber went on to say. "When we look around our board table and look for leadership and great vision, the ownership of Sporting Kansas City are one of the ownership groups we count on."
The decision to award Kansas City the event falls right in line with MLS' recent history of utilizing the nation's newest soccer-specific stadiums for the summer exhibition that lines up the league's best up against some of the biggest clubs in European football. New Jersey's Red Bull Arena hosted Manchester United's 4-0 victory in 2011, the building's second year of existence, with Philadelphia's PPL Park was the host the All-Star's 2012 victory over European champions Chelsea FC, just three years after its grand opening.
"The stadium is a nice place, but what's far better are the people that fill it," said Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman, alongside Garber on Thursday.
And those fans will be treated to a very busy 2013 season at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park - 17 MLS regular season league home games, up to a half-dozen US Open Cup home games, two CONCACAF Champions League group home games, up to four home playoff games, and now an MLS All-Star Game. When you spend almost $200 million dollars on a facility, you expect to put it to good use, which Sporting KC and ownership group Sporting Club have certainly done thus far.
Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes will assume the role of manager for the exhibition match, taking charge of the 11 players selected by Major League Soccer's fans. Sporting were tops in the league at the 2012 All-Star Game, represented by three of their most star players - captain goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, defender Aurelien Collin and midfielder Graham Zusi.
The opponent for the July 31 showcase is still yet to be announced, with Garber stating Heineman and Co. would have that honor at a future date. So, who would you like to see take the field at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park against 11 of MLS' very best on July 31? Barcelona? Real Madrid? Manchester United? Paris Saint-Germain? Bayern Munich? Juventus? Take your pick of the world's best.