The 2005 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game is more than just a game. It's also a salute to the USA's top players and a chance for fans of U.S. soccer to enjoy the sport in every possible way. Fans in Columbus that are excited for Saturday's match at Crew Stadium had a chance to enjoy all aspects of the All-Star festivities as the 2005 Sierra Mist All-Star Soccer Celebration, which kicked off Friday at Easton Town Center.
Those lucky enough to attend the event had the chance to compete in a 3-v-3 tournament as well as test their skills in an accuracy kick, a soccer obstacle course and a goalkeeper challenge. Major League Soccer sponsors such as Sierra Mist and RadioShack also had contests that fans could enter and free giveaways, with Sierra Mist providing an opportunity to win tickets to watch a soccer game anywhere in the world.
But the highlight for most in attendance was the chance to see the All-Stars up close and in person. New England Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey and striker Taylor Twellman, along with D.C. United midfielder Christian Gomez, were on hand to sign autographs, snap a few photos and even give some quick soccer tips to the youngsters that hope to follow in their footsteps.
"It's been awesome," said Twellman. "There's obviously a very good crowd and we're having a good time with it. We want to promote the game and be easy access for fans to get autographs, take pictures and just chat with us for a little bit. It's a pleasure to do it."
A steady stream of fans of all ages lined up to meet the three All-Stars and all of them walked away with smiles on their faces.
"I came down from Akron just to get some autographs and soak in the festivities," said Dominic Oliveti, while holding several items signed by all three players. "I'll be back down tomorrow for the game."
John Robison, 15, also plans on attending the match and made it a point to get out to Soccer Celebration to meet some of his idols.
"I'm pretty excited about it," he said. "It was pretty cool getting to meet the guys."
"I'm here to get pumped for the All-Star Game," added Justin Ryan.
Fans that were unable to attend Friday's Soccer Celebration activities will have a second chance on Saturday before the main event. The activities will move to Lot G at Columbus Crew Stadium, where all of the excitement will be reprised just hours before the All-Stars will take the field against Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League. Soccer Celebration runs from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday and is free and open to the public.
"We come out to identify with the kids so they can see you face to face," said Dempsey. "They can see that we're just like them. We want to come here and show them that we're thankful that they come out and support us."
Other MLS sponsors present at the 2005 Sierra Mist All-Star Soccer Celebration include: Kraft, ESPN, US Soccer Foundation, Makita, adidas, Disney, Futbol Mundial, Bally's Total Fitness, MBNA, Puma and Panasonic.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.