Brad Guzan - Atlanta United - hand over heart

The 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target will be all about Atlanta.

Six Atlanta United players – Brad Guzan, Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Josef Martinez, Darlington Nagbe and Michael Parkhurst – were voted to the All-Star Fan XI, ensuring that this summer’s matchup against Juventus at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Wednesday, Aug. 1, 7:30 pm ET | ESPN, UniMas – Full TV and streaming info) will be a showcase for the club’s exciting play and the city’s vibrant soccer culture.

“It’s a special opportunity, it’s an exciting opportunity and I think that the best part is the fact that we’re hosting it here in Atlanta,” Guzan told reporters on a conference call on Monday. “It gives us the opportunity as a club, as a team and especially as a city with our fanbase to show Major League Soccer, as well as such a historic club like Juventus, what we’ve created down here in Atlanta.”

The All-Star Game as another opportunity for Atlanta to show itself as a premier soccer town was something that Guzan talked about repeatedly on Monday. The 33-year-old former Aston Villa goalkeeper credited the club’s supporters with placing six Atlanta players in the Fan XI, and he mentioned the expected All-Star crowd – a league representative said over 50,000 tickets have already been sold – as another exciting potential milestone in the city’s soccer journey.

“It’s not fabricated, it’s not scripted, it’s genuine fans that are wanting to be a part of this club and to be a part of the soccer scene here in Atlanta,” he said. “To compare this with other clubs that I’ve had the fortune to play for and represent, this is up there.

“And not only the clubs that I’ve been able to represent, but I think you hear other clubs around the world that have made the trip to Atlanta to see what we’ve done in terms of the attendance, in terms of the fan experience – there’s clubs around the world that would die to have what we have here. That’s really down to our fan support.”

Of course, Atlanta have given those fans plenty to be happy about. The Five Stripes remain atop the Supporters’ Shield standings with 34 points through 17 games after Sunday’s 1-1 home draw with Portland and lead the league with 34 goals scored. Their 5-2-2 home record isn’t as quite as good as they’d like, but their 5-1-2 away mark is excellent and, according to Guzan, a sign of the club’s increased maturity in their second year.

“That’s probably the biggest word that we’ve kind of brought into our repertoire in terms of what we’re about, and that’s maturity,” he said. “We’ve won games this year that last year we probably wouldn’t have. We’re still developing and we all know how this league works.

“You don’t necessarily want to be flying high in the beginning of the season or the middle of the season, you want to make sure that towards the end of the regular season you’re playing well, you’re winning games and you’re going to the playoffs on a bit of a buzz and a good feeling. And so, we know that there’s a lot of soccer to be played still, but for me, the biggest thing is our maturity level.”