Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced Tuesday that the MLS All-Stars will face English Premier League club Fulham as MLS goes global in the 2005 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game to be played on Saturday, July 30 in Columbus Crew Stadium (live on ABC Sports at 3:30 p.m. ET). The match will mark the second time in three seasons that the League's best players battle the world's top clubs in the new format for the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game, which was adopted to ensure the most competitive All-Star spectacle in U.S. professional sports. In 2003, the MLS All-Stars downed storied Mexican club CD Guadalajara 3-1 at The Home Depot Center.
The game on July 30 will represent the return of forward Brian McBride to the city which he called home for eight seasons while playing for the Crew before joining Fulham in January 2004. Former Chicago Fire defender and U.S. National Team stalwart Carlos Bocanegra, a two-time MLS Defender of the Year, will also make his return to the All-Star Game wearing the black and white of Fulham.
"We are proud to present American soccer fans an All-Star Game that celebrates the League's 10th season and the lasting impact MLS has had in the U.S. and around the soccer world," said Garber. "We look forward to welcoming Fulham and former MLS All-Stars Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra back to Columbus in July for what is sure to be one of the most competitive matchups in the event's history."
Fulham, one of the oldest clubs in world soccer dating back to 1879, is owned by Chairman Mohamed Al Fayed and coached by Welsh Manager Chris Coleman. The team, which makes its home in London's renowned Craven Cottage, features several high profile internationals in its ranks: Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, Canadian star forward Tomasz Radzinski, the second highest all-time goal scorer in the Premiership Andrew Cole, and Senegalese international midfielder Papa Bouba Diop, who scored the winning goal against France in his country's shock 1-0 win in the opener of the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan. Following Saturday's 0-0 draw at home against Charlton Athletic, Fulham stands in 15th place with 30 points and 10 matches to play in the 2004-2005 season.
"I am delighted that we have been able to secure such a high profile fixture as part of our pre-season preparations, and especially pleased that we will be playing the best that the United States has to offer," said Fulham Manager Chris Coleman, speaking at the club's training ground. "We will be expecting a tough game as there will be a lot of pride at stake on the pitch, and it will give us a great platform in which to show what we are capable of against top class opposition before the new season kicks off."
"Playing the All-Stars at Crew Stadium will be a fantastic occasion for Fulham Football Club, and the Chairman and Directors are all very excited at the prospect of such a prestigious fixture," said Club Secretary Lee Hoos, who originates from the U.S. state of Maryland. "During the last few years soccer in the United States has made tremendous advances with more and more American players making their mark on the European stage, I am sure that fans can expect an entertaining game of football and a fantastic atmosphere with the All-Stars eager to prove a point against their Premiership opposition."
Only once before have the MLS All-Stars battled a foreign club when in 2003, they defeated storied Mexican powerhouse CD Guadalajara 3-1 at The Home Depot Center in a match widely recognized as the most competitive in League history. On six occasions All-Stars squads from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference have squared off. In 1998 the best players in the League faced each other in a USA vs. World format, while in 2002 the MLS All-Stars defeated the U.S. National Team 3-2 at RFK Stadium in a celebration of the team's historic World Cup Quarterfinal finish.
"ABC Sports is very happy to serve as the network partner for the Major League Soccer All-Star game," said Tag Garson, Director of Programming and Acquisitions/ABC Sports. "Having a Premier League team involved this year will add to the excitement."
The event on Saturday, July 30 will be the second All-Star Game hosted by Crew Stadium since it became the country's first soccer stadium on May 15, 1999. The home of the Columbus Crew hosted the MLS mid-summer showcase in 2000 and has since been the stage for the most important soccer events held in the United States: FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup, MLS Cup, MLS All-Star Game, NCAA College Cup and high-profile international matches including Bayer Leverkusen (Germany), Hamburg (Germany) and Newcastle United (England).
"Hosting the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star game, in the league's 10th season, is a tremendous honor for our organization," said Crew General Manager Mark McCullers. "We look forward to seeing Brian McBride back in Columbus and believe that the format and the energy surrounding the Sierra Mist All-Star game will create an outstanding experience for the fans. I would also like to thank our friends at G & J Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Columbus and Sierra Mist for their continued support and look forward to working with them to produce a special event."
McBride played in seven consecutive All-Star Games during his MLS career (1996 - 2002) and won Honda MVP honors for his 1998 performance for the MLS U.S. squad. He totaled five goals and eight assists during in All-Star history and is tied for the all-time lead in both categories. Bocanegra, who also joined Fulham in January 2004, played in two consecutive All-Star matches (2002-2003) and registered the game-winning assist on Carlos Ruiz's goal in the 3-1 win by the MLS All-Stars over CD Guadalajara.
Crew Soccer Nation members (Crew season ticket holders) will get a priority offer to purchase MLS All-Star Game tickets before they go on sale to the general public. The on-sale date for the general public will be announced in the near future.
A history of the previous nine editions of the MLS All-Star Game follows:
07-14-96: East 3, West 2 (Giants Stadium - East Rutherford, NJ)
MVP: Carlos Valderrama (East)
07-09-97: East 5, West 4 (Giants Stadium - East Rutherford, NJ)
MVP: Carlos Valderrama (East)
08-02-98: USA 6, World 1 (Citrus Bowl - Orlando, FL)
MVP: Brian McBride (USA)
07-17-99: West 6, East 4 (Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, CA)
MVP: Preki (West)
07-29-00: East 9, West 4 (Columbus Crew Stadium - Columbus, OH)
MVP: Mamadou Diallo (East)
07-28-01: East 6, West 6 (Spartan Stadium - San Jose, CA)
MVP: Landon Donovan (West)
08-03-02: MLS 3, U.S. National Team 2 (RFK Stadium - Washington, D.C.)
MVP: March Etcheverry (MLS)
08-02-03: MLS 3, CD Guadalajara (MEX) 1 (The Home Depot Center - Carson, CA)
MVP: Carlos Ruiz (MLS)
07-31-04: East 3, West 2 (RFK Stadium - Washington, D.C.)
MVP: Amado Guevara (East)