Every season since the league's inception in 1996, MLS has put on it's signature summer event -- the All-Star Game. At various times in its history it was a match-up of Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference, U.S. players vs. World players, even MLS vs. the U.S. men's national team (definitely a format that is worthy of bringing back).
In its current format, first played in 2003 and a regular every year since 2005, a team of MLS All-Stars assembles to face off against a well-known international club team. For this season's event, hosted by the Portland Timbers, the big-name opponent is Bayern Munich. And anticipation for the game has never been higher.
The Rose City has proven to be a great locale for the game, as traveling fans have descended on the town, mixing with local soccer supporters, to help Portland live up to its reputation as Soccer City, USA. Free concerts, fan-zones, player appearances, even a mini soccer field in the middle of downtown -- the game is just one part of the entire experience.
Last year, it was Kansas City that wowed locals and visitors alike when it hosted the All-Star Game, setting the bar higher than any other previous host. And with MLS moving away from having its championship game played at a neutral site, the All-Star game and associated festivities have become the go-to event for fans, as well as MLS executives and insiders.
The annual MLS All-Star Game is a really big deal. And the competition to play host to the event has escalated with its prominence on the league calendar. So, where will the 2015 match be played? Curiously, that has yet to be decided, though only one location really makes sense.
Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for San Jose!
The Earthquakes hosted the event back in 2001, an over-the-top 6-6 game that featured a four-goal performance by hometown hero Landon Donovan. much to the delight of a capacity crowd at Spartan Stadium. Five other Quakes represented the West that year, including Troy Dayak as team captain and Joe Cannon at starting goalkeeper, and collectively the experience was a wonderful signpost on the road to the club's first MLS Cup that fall. The All-Star event itself was a rousing success.
Next season, the Quakes will have a brand-new 18,000 seat stadium ready to go, ready to show off to the rest of MLS. It offers up plenty of club seating for MLS high-rollers, and a seating configuration that will put fans right atop the action. A vast standing-room-only terrace will grace the open end of the stadium, complete with an outdoor bar, running the length of the scoreboard, that will be the largest in North America. The pitch will feature world-class players and the bar will feature world-class micro brews.
In addition to the new stadium, downtown San Jose is ready as well, having shown in viewing parties during this summer's World Cup that it throw a party on par with any Soccer City out there. The amenities in the area are top-notch, the weather is almost perfect, and the support is there to continue the league's fine run of form from its host cities. Even local soccer dignitaries are voicing their support.
Joe Cannon (@JoeCannonGK1) August 4, 2014
Next year will mark the 20th season of Major League Soccer, and what better choice than to award the game to one of the league's original clubs. A couple newcomers are on the way in 2015 -- New York City FC and Orlando City SC -- and they should get their chances in future seasons. But for the MLS decision-makers, the choice should be clear, and shortly should come out publicly with: "We are proud to announce the San Jose Earthquakes as hosts of the 2015 MLS All-Star Game!"
Without a doubt, San Jose is ready.