Three for Thursday: What you need to know about 2014 All-Star opponents Bayern Munich
If the possibility of an All-Star Game in the raucous confines of JELD-WEN Field didn't already have your mouth watering, the pot just got a lot sweeter with the news that the MLS All-Stars' opponent will be none other than German powerhouse Bayern Munich.
Though certain English, Spanish and Italian teams might carry more cachet among American audiences, Bayern are pound-for-pound the top team on the planet right now, which makes the prospect of MLS' best facing off against them all that more enticing. Here are three things you need to know about the defending German and European champs:
You'll see plenty of them in the World Cup
If you're looking for a player who might star in Brazil next summer, the Bayern first-team roster is not a bad place to start.
Of the 11 players that started their 3-2 UEFA Champions League loss to Manchester City on Tuesday, all but Austrian left back David Alaba are likely feature in the World Cup, for not only Germany, but Brazil (Dante), France (Franck Ribéry), Spain (Thiago) and Croatia (Mario Mandzukic). Here we find the core of the German national team, including goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, 104 times-capped fullback Philipp Lahm and star midfielders Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Toni Kroos.
On the bench? Just another Spanish international, Javi Martínez, Belgium vice captain Daniel Van Buyten and Xherdan Shaqiri, one of Switzerland's brightest young stars.
What of the guys not in the 18? Don't worry, you'll still likely see Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger at the World Cup.
Anyway, you get the idea. This team is stacked. Possibly the one of the best we've seen at the club level in a very long time, and it'll be a treat to see them strut their stuff at JELD-WEN Field.
The American connection
The 2013 All-Star Game saw US international Michael Bradley take the field for Roma, and the 2014 edition may just see another American square off against the All-Stars. Though his international allegiance is still up in the air, teen phenom Julian Green made waves with his performances in preseason and the reserve team, to the point where he has started cracking the 18. Expect to see a lot of him when Bayern come to the States next summer.
Of course, Green is far from the first person in the world of American soccer to have a Bayern Munich connection. On the American Exports side, Landon Donovan spent the first few months of 2009 on loan in Bavaria, and though he made waves in friendlies and training, it failed to translate into goals in a disappointing season for Bayern, and he was soon back with the LA Galaxy.
And Donovan's coaches during that spell? None other than Jurgen Klinsmann and Martin Vasquez, as head coach and assistant, respectively, the same positions they hold with the US national team currently.
Then there's Lothar Matthäus, the man who won a record 150 caps for Germany. For those who need a refresher course on the early years of MLS, he was essentially a Designated Player seven years before the DP rule came into existence. Easily one of the most, if not the most, skilled and pedigreed players the league has seen, the World Cup winner and Bayern legend spent the final year of his career playing for the MetroStars.
A whole lot of history
With Pep Guardiola's arrival on the bench and their dominant recent run, Bayern are unquestionably in vogue when in the world soccer scene.
On the other hand, that's nothing new.
Die Roten are far and away the most successful team in Germany, having won 23 national titles and 16 German Cups, holding double-digit leads over the chasing clubs in both categories. From Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1970s to Hamburg in the '80s to Dortmund in the '90s and again now, many teams have attempted to challenge Bayern's domestic supremacy, but the Bavarians have almost always managed to beat them back.
They are also far and away the most successful German team in European play, having won the Champions League (previously the European Cup) five times, placing them third on the all-time wins list behind only Real Madrid (nine) and AC Milan (seven).
Beyond the titles, Bayern have boasted some of the greatest players of all time in their ranks, including the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Matthäus and Gerd Müller, to name a few.
Simply put, when it comes to history, tradition and consistency on the field, it just doesn't get much bigger than Bayern.