The clapping began as soon as the clock hit 9:29:30 a.m. ET. For 30 seconds it grew louder until -- amidst the flashbulbs, smiles, and a shout of "go San Jose!" from somewhere down below -- Alexi Lalas, Landon Donovan and Alecko Eskandarian raised the hammer and together struck the metal bell.
Thus began Tuesday's trading on the world's largest securities market.
Ahead of Saturday's Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game, the two forwards from the Eastern and Western Conference squads and the 1994 World Cup veteran teamed up with executives from sponsor PepsiCo and the New York Stock Exchange to promote league's ninth midsummer classic, which will take place down Interstate 95 in Washington D.C.
"This is a great opportunity for myself, Alecko and Landon to come out here and to spread the news about the All-Star Game," said Lalas, the World Cup veteran, former MLS player and current San Jose Earthquakes general manager. "This is also an institution I've never visited so I look at this as an education as much as an appearance."
The morning's events in lower Manhattan kicked off with a breakfast reception under the original skylight of the wood-paneled boardroom that since 1901 has been home to meetings of the NYSE's top decision-makers.
Shortly after 9 a.m., while five floors below traders scurried to prepare orders for the day, Lalas, Donovan and Eskandarian were received by NYSE President Robert Britz.
"This is going to make me cool," said the 53-year-old co-chief operating officer as he posed for a photograph with the MLS trio. "I haven't been cool in my house for a long time."
After smiling for an estimated worldwide audience of 130 million viewers and officially opening the $13 trillion market, the players were given a tour of the floor to visit the trading post of Bear Wagner Specialists LLC, where stock in PepsiCo -- up two cents a share on this particular morning -- are bought and sold.
They also took time to meet with their fans in the world of high finance, like 18-year-old Ben Tamberella.
"It's amazing. I never would've thought that [Landon Donovan] would be down here," said the native of Hoboken, N.J., who was working as a summer clerk at Mogavero & Lee & Co, his mother's brokerage. "My mom just called me from the office and told me to run down. I threw on my tie and ran downstairs to meet him as fast as possible."
The Hobart College-bound goalkeeper -- who was a freshman at Bergen Catholic High School in nearby Oradell when Eskandarian was a senior standout forward there -- smiled as he clutched an autograph from three of America's past, present and future stars.
"[Donovan] is such a young person, and to do what he has done so fast at that age, is amazing. [In the 2002 World Cup], no one thought the United States would do that well," he said. "Because of players like [them] stepping up the level of soccer and showing kids in the United States how soccer is, finally people can see that the United States is huge today and we're going to make a real step forward."
On Wednesday, the All-Star focus will shift from capital to Capitol as the 34 All-Stars and the 31 former MLS stars participating in the MLS Celebration Game at RFK Stadium begin to arrive in Washington.
Keegan Pierce is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.