By Ryan Bailey
Plenty of U.S. sports leagues stage an annual All-Star Game, but how does Major League Soccer’s showpiece event work? CLTFC’s latest MLS 101 explains it all…
What exactly is the MLS All-Star Game?
Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game is an exhibition match, in which a team featuring the league’s best players is assembled. It is a similar concept to the All-Star games of other North American leagues, such as the NFL, NBA and NHL.
The match has been played annually since the league’s inception in 1996 (with the exception of 2020) and has varied in format. In its infancy, the All-Star game pitted an Eastern Conference XI against a Western Conference XI, but has more frequently featured a guest opponent from Europe. The MLS All-Star team has played the likes of Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Juventus. The most recent edition, in July 2019, saw the MLS All-Stars face reigning Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.
For the 2021 edition, the format has been adapted to accommodate a new opponent…
Who are this year’s opponents?
For the first time, the MLS All-Stars will take on the Liga MX All-Stars in the 2021 edition. Hence, the match is set up to feature the finest players in Major League Soccer and Mexico’s top division.
This matchup was originally scheduled to take place in July 2020, but was moved to this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When and where is the 2021 All-Star Game taking place?
The 2021 edition will take place on Wednesday August 25, 2021 at 9pm ET (6pm PT). It will be held at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium. Charlotte locals will be able to attend one of CLTFC’s viewing parties, too.
The All-Star Game does not disrupt the action in MLS or Liga MX: a full slate of games is scheduled in both leagues on the weekends preceding and following the match.
How are MLS players selected for the game?
Major League Soccer will field a 28-man roster for the big game—and there are unlimited substitutions, so we may see plenty of the league’s top stars on the field.
Thirteen of 28 the players on the roster were selected by a combination of the public, media and current MLS players. The public portion of the vote was conducted online in July.
A further thirteen players were selected by All-Star Head Coach Bob Bradley. The three-time MLS Coach of the Year, and current LAFC boss, will have the honor of leading the All-Stars in his home stadium.
The final two players on the roster were selected by league Commissioner Don Garber.
The roster includes players from 15 of Major League Soccer’s 27 teams, including players from 14 countries. Mexico national team superstars Carlos Vela (LAFC) and Javier Hernandez (LA Galaxy) will lead the line for MLS against the selection from their home domestic league.
The Liga MX All Stars will field a 26-man roster, with 14 of the selections coming from directly the shortlist of the most recent Balón de Oro (the Mexican Federation of Association Football’s annual awards).
Eleven other players were selected by Liga MX All-Stars head coach Juan Reynoso (head coach of Cruz Azul), with one further selection by Liga MX executive president Mikel Arriola
Who made the All-Star rosters?
Goalkeepers: Matt Turner (New England Revolution), Pedro Gallese (Orlando City)
Defenders: Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Jesus David Murillo (LAFC), Nouhou (Seattle Sounders), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders), James Sands (NYCFC), Kai Wagner (Philadelphia Union), Yeimar (Seattle Sounders), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Midfielders: Eduard Atuesta (LAFC), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Damir Kreilach (Real Salt Lake), Joao Paulo (Seattle Sounders), Emanuel Reynoso (Minnesota United), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Lucas Zelarayán (Columbus Crew)
Forwards: Gustavo Bou (New England Revolution), Tajon Buchanan (New England Revolution), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Javier Hernandez (LA Galaxy), Nani (Orlando City), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Diego Rossi (LAFC), Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle Sounders), Dániel Sallói (Sporting Kansas City), Carlos Vela (LAFC)
Liga MX All-Stars
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (América), Alfredo Talavera (Pumas), Nahuel Guzmán (UANL)
Defenders: William Tesillo (León), Matheus Dória (Santos), Victor Andrés Guzmán (Tijuana), Jorge Sánchez (América), Salvador Reyes (Puebla), Jesús Gallardo (Monterrey), Pablo Aguilar (Cruz Azul), César Montes (Monterrey) and Juan Escobar (Cruz Azul)
Midfielders: Orbelín Pineda (Cruz Azul), Rubens Sambueza (Toluca), Fernando Gorriarán (Santos), Luis Romo (Cruz Azul), Javier Salas (Puebla), Pedro Aquino (América), Ángel Mena (León) and Diego Valdés (Santos)
Forwards: Santiago Muñoz (Santos), Jonathan Rodríguez (Cruz Azul), Alexis Canelo (Toluca), Nicolas Ibanez (Pachuca) and Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey)
Which jerseys will the All-Stars wear?
A specially designed kit is released for every All-Star game, and this year is no exception. The 2021 jersey is inspired by Los Angeles’ Art Deco architecture.
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Are any other events staged around the game?
Yes! The night before the game, on Tuesday August 24th, the 2021 MLS All-Star Skills Challenge will take place at Banc of California Stadium.
The event will feature a team of eight MLS players battling eight of LIGA MX’s best in five different disciplines: a Shooting Challenge, a Touch Challenge, a Cross & Volley Challenge, a Passing Challenge, and a Crossbar Challenge.
Additionally, on the evening of Sunday August 22nd, the 2021 eMLS All-Star Challenge will take place. It will feature eight pairs of teams, composed of celebrities, influencers and pro-gamers.
How can I watch the All-Star game?
Charlotte FC will be holding MLS All-Star Game Watch Parties in South End and Pineville:
The All-Star Game will air on FS1 and TUDN in the U.S. from 9pm ET (6pm PT) on August 25, 2021.