Consider Sporting Kansas City’s season slate filled.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Speaking at a press conference Thursday to announce that Livestrong Sporting Park would host the 2013 MLS All-Star Game, Sporting KC President and CEO Robb Heineman said he doesn’t expect any friendlies to be added to the schedule this summer.
The past few seasons, Sporting KC has hosted two international clubs for mid-summer exhibitions.
French Ligue 1 champion Montpelier Herault SC and the English Premier League’s Stoke City FC played at Livestrong in 2012, while another EPL side, Newcastle, and Mexican powerhouse Chivas Guadalajara made appearances in 2011.
With the All-Star Game, CONCACAF Champions League home matches and potentially a series of games in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Sporting KC won’t actively look for any friendlies.
“I don’t think we will, not to say it couldn’t happen,” Heineman said. “But I think we’ve got enough games this summer.”
However, Heineman cautioned, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any additional matches coming to Kansas City.
“The thing that I could see happening potentially in the fall is a friendly that Sporting doesn’t participate in,” he said. “I’d love to do that with a couple Mexican teams.”
Livestrong Sporting Park is also in consideration to host one of five World Cup Qualifiers for the U.S. men’s national team.
As far as the All-Star Game at 7:30 p.m. on July 31, Heineman couldn’t offer any insight into a possible opponent, saying there wasn’t even a short list of teams at this point.
He’d love to see the MLS book a team from Spain’s La Liga or another squad from the EPL, but most European teams won’t finalize offseason travel plans until February – and perhaps as late as April.
MLS Executive Vice President for Communications Dan Courtemanche said the league will wait until it knows what international teams are planning U.S. tours next summer before an opponent is selected.
Of course, the dream scenario would be booking Bracelona and Lionel Messi, who won his record fourth straight FIFA Ballon d’Or award Monday as the best soccer player on the planet.
“I’d love it,” Heineman said. “Messi can stay at my house.”
Of course, bringing in Barca seems a bit far-fetched (if not awesome to think about), and don’t expect Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo to debut at Livestrong either.
In nine previous All-Star Games pitting the MLS against the World, the opponent has come from the EPL seven times. Mexico’s Chivas Guadalajara and Scotland’s Celtic also have played in the game.
Given the demographics in Kansas City, Chivas Guadalajara would make some sense, but the general consensus is that MLS fans would generally prefer to see a European side.
If it’s not another English team, perhaps a team from the Bundesliga or Serie A – AS Roma anyone? – could be tapped to play at Livestrong for the All-Star Game.
In any case, the MLS All-Star Game, which will feature three or four days of player appearances and soccer-related activities around town in the run-up to the game itself, promises to be another exciting week for Kansas City.
“There can be no doubt, Kansas City is a soccer city,” KCK Mayor Joe Reardon said. “… The announcement today of having the All-Star Game here further raises the stature of what’s going around here as far as soccer in Kansas City, but also for this Kansas City region.”
And it’s one Heineman said Sporting KC owes to its fans.
“This is a huge honor and it’s something we, as a city, have worked for very hard,” Heineman said. “There’s nothing that compares to our fans here in Kansas City. You are what makes this day possible for us. The stadium’s a nice place, but what’s far better are the people who fill it.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.