Major League Soccer formally announced that AS Roma will be the opponent for the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game on July 31 at Sporting Park during a news conference Thursday at the stadium.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Roma, which finished sixth in Italy’s top league last season but also reached the Coppa Italia final, will become the first Serie A team to face the MLS All-Stars.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to showcase this facility and the great fans we have in Kansas City to a worldwide audience,” MLS President Mark Abbott said. “… I can’t think of a better club to have join us here. They’re one of the most successful and popular clubs in Italy.”
Founded in 1927, Roma, which also is the first Serie A team with U.S.-based ownership, remains one of the most storied clubs in Italy with three league titles, nine Coppa Italia championships and two Supercoppa Italiana titles.
Of course, Roma isn’t planning to roll over for the MLS All-Stars either.
“We’re bringing our entire first squad,” said Roma’s CEO, Mark Pannes. “If they’re healthy, they’re eligible to play. We’re going to put them all in and we want to win. That’s the bottom line. We view this as a competitive match and we know the MLS views it that way as well.”
Roma’s roster includes Italian superstar Francesco Totti, who has scored 227 goals in a 20-year career with the club, and fellow Italian star Daniele De Rossi, a midfielder who is drawing heavy interest from several English Premier League clubs.
U.S. men’s national team star Michael Bradley, who began his career at age 16 in MLS with the then-MetroStars, also plays for Roma.
“This is going to be a fantastic summer for us and this is the sort of event we’ve always said we wanted to have at Sporting Park,” Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman said. “To be supported by the league and by AT&T and by Roma, it’s just going to be a fantastic summer.”
Never shy, Heineman repeatedly declared Sporting Club’s intention to pull out all the stops in creating “the best event they’ve ever had held in the best stadium they’ve ever had,” he said.
He also views the All-Star Game as a showcase for Sporting KC — the club, its facilities, its fans and the city — as much as anything and joked (well, half-joked) that it was an opportunity to recruit Bradley back to MLS.
“We’re going to try to raise the bar if we can,” Heineman said. “That’s one of the things we’ve tried to do here as a fan base, as an ownership group, as a team, we’ve tried to take things to the next level and now we get to try to do that with the All-Star Game.
“I’m hopeful this feels more like a Major League Baseball All-Star Game than probably what Major League Soccer All-Star Games have felt like in the past. We’ve got the opportunity to do that.”
Since switching to the new format in 2003, the MLS All-Stars are 6-2-1 against international competition with wins against Chivas Guadalajara (2003), Fulham (2005), Chelsea (2006, 2012), Celtic (2007) and West Ham United (2008).
Both losses came against Manchester United in 2010 and 2011, while the MLS All- Stars drew in 2009 with Everton, who eventually won on penalty kicks.
From a personal standpoint, Heineman said he’s thrilled to that Roma was chosen as the opponent for the match at Sporting Park.
“This is actually really cool for me, because the first international match that I ever saw was a Roma/Fiorentina game,” Heineman said. “It’s was incredible and captivated me to think about what a future could look like around soccer, so it’s a great full-circle moment for me.”
A limited number of tickets are available for the game, including standing-room only tickets that went on sale Thursday through Ticketmaster.com and at the Sporting Park box offices.