Kansas City will take a turn in the national sports spotlight for the second straight summer when the MLS All-Star Game is played July 31 at Livestrong Sporting Park.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed the news Thursday during a news conference at the stadium, which included Sporting Kansas City president and CEO Robb Heineman and Kansas City, Kan., mayor Joe Reardon.
“We said when we came here for the groundbreaking and the opening of this stadium that we would be back here for special events,” Garber said. “Today, we’re happy to announce that the 2013 All-Star Game will be here in Kansas City in this beautiful new stadium.”
Last summer, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game was played at Kauffman Stadium.
The frenzy this year probably won’t rival baseball’s Midsummer Classic, but the game, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, will be broadcast on ESPN and Univision and shown in more than 100 countries.
“With all due respect to our (All-Star Game), I’m not sure it will be quite the pomp and circumstance that baseball had obviously, but I think we’ll do a heck of a job,” Heineman said. “What this ownership group is committed to doing is putting the best foot forward for Kansas City, so we’ll start working on that right away.”
Of course, one big question remains unanswered: Who will the MLS All-Stars play?
Since beginning its MLS versus the World format in 2003, the opponents have included Mexican powerhouse Chivas Guadalajara (2003) and Scottish powerhouse Celtic (2007).
The MLS All-Stars are 6-2-1 overall against such international teams, which includes seven matches against teams from the English Premier League.
Both losses came against Manchester United (2010, 2011), while the MLS All-Stars have also played Fulham (2005), Chelsea (2006, 2012), West Ham United (2008) and Everton (2009).
“We think it’s one of the most exciting All-Star formats in all of pro sports,” Garber said. “We’re not just playing each other in another game, because we do that every weekend and every Wednesday. We’re going to go take on some really big guys and hopefully stand toe-to-toe against the great powers.”
Typically, European teams don’t announce U.S. tours until February or as late as April, so it will likely be a few months before an All-Star opponent is determined.
“To be able to bring this MLS All-Star Game here and really highlight how engaged Kansas City is with soccer, I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity,” Reardon said. “It’s going to be great.”
Heineman credited Sporting KC’s fans for making it possible to bring the All-Star Game — as well as other events, such as appearances by the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams — to Livestrong, which continues to craft a reputation as one of the world’s finest soccer-specific venues.
“This has been one of the great success stories for our sport,” Garber said. “We’re very proud of what’s taken place here.
“It’s a really good story for where our sport is and the hope of where it can go in the future. Kansas City is a market that many years ago when the league was founded, I don’t think we thought that it could have achieved the success that exists here today.”
Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes, who left Thursday for the MLS Combine in Florida as preparations move into the final stages for next week’s MLS SuperDraft, will coach the MLS All-Star squad.
“I’m happy for Peter,” Heineman said. “It’s a great thing for Peter, a great honor for him, and I’m sure he’ll do a great job.”
Tickets start at $50 in the members’ stand and go up to $115 for seats in the west stands. Premium tickets for the Shield Club will start at $160.
A special presale for Sporting KC’s full season-ticket holders begins at 10 a.m. today.
“I’m hopeful that, between the presale to season-ticket holders and then the on sale we have locally, we sell out the building before it even goes nationally,” Heineman said. “I’d love that.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.