The excitement built around the 2005 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game, as fans in Columbus prepared to watch the best in MLS take on Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League. Spectators young and old milled around outside Crew Stadium just hours before kickoff, getting pumped up for the showcase.
One of the pregame highlights was the second day of the 2005 Sierra Mist All-Star Soccer Celebration. A slew of activities were available for those in attendance, including an accuracy kick challenge, a goalkeeper challenge and product testing and samples. Children had their faces painted, while Spongebob Square Pants played with the younger crowd. As was the case at Friday's Soccer Celebration at Easton Town Center, the main attraction was the availability of MLS players and the chance to get autographs, snap a few photographs and chat with a true professional.
Colorado Rapids defender Mike Petke, Kansas City Wizards midfielder Chris Klein and hometown hero Kyle Martino of the Columbus Crew mingled with supporters and shared in the excitement of All-Star weekend.
"MLS always puts on a great show for the kids," said Petke. "It's always great to have fan interaction and it's important for the league to have the players approachable. You don't get this in other sports. It's good marketing and good for the league."
Fans began making their way into the stadium more than an hour before kickoff and the anticipation of seeing MLS All-Stars such as Landon Donovan, Taylor Twellman and Ronnie O'Brien began to reach a fever pitch. The return of Brian McBride, former Columbus Crew man and current Fulham FC striker, was also on the minds of many in attendance.
"I want to see Brian McBride," said Noelle Hadder, 12. "He's one of my favorite players."
Sunny skies and warm temperatures should provide and excellent environment for Saturday's game, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET and can be seen live on ABC Sports. With a talented English Premier League side in town and the best players in American soccer ready to square off, the game promises to be an exciting event.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.