It was delayed a whole year, but Major League Soccer players will finally get to test their skills against their Liga MX counterparts prior to the 2021 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, which is being held August 25 in Los Angeles.
Before then, we've sorted through each skill challenge, dropped the official competition description and offered fantasy team selections for each category. Some of the names on last year's hypothetical team sheet were picked and some are new picks, but all have it in them to bring home the victory.
Here's what could await at the 2021 MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G on August 24 at Banc of California Stadium.
Shooting Challenge presented by AT&T 5G
Players will be shooting at targets from distance with varying values as they look to rack up points for their team.
For this competition, I'd love to see a perfectly balanced blend of youthful exuberance and reliable experience. My veteran pick would be Gonzalo Higuain, who has continually demonstrated ace marksmanship throughout his career. The Inter Miami striker has put nearly one of every five shot attempts in the back of the net over his 15 years as a pro. There aren't many worldwide who can match that accuracy.
To represent the fresh blood, I'll go with New York Red Bulls rising star Caden Clark. Thus far this season, the 18-year-old (who is no stranger to long-range blasts) has put eight of his 10 shots on frame, and half of those in the net. Besides, he'll head off to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig at season's end, so we may as well utilize the kid's top-notch targeting system while we still can.
Finally, let's bridge the gap between the first two choices by enlisting Real Salt Lake head-turner Rubio Rubin. In transforming from an attack handyman to a regular striker, the 25-year-old has quickly become quite the efficient striker. It's only a shame there are no artistic merit points for this category.
Touch Challenge presented by Old Spice
Players will have to collect and control balls as they streak in low to the ground or are launched hundreds of feet into the sky.
Cross & Volley Challenge presented by AT&T 5G
Player’s creativity and skill will be on display, as they connect with a teammate to finish with style. The more style, the more points.
Now that we have the service crew hired, it's time to find some guys to lash those crosses home. Golden Boot presented by Audi frontrunner Javier Hernandez has used all sorts of body contortions to net passes struck straight out of the air during his career. Theoretically, allowing the LA Galaxy striker to set his feet and strike volleys without defenders hanging all over him should bring good results in this challenge.
Passing Challenge presented by Crest
With a variety of targets spread across the pitch, players must place their passes with pinpoint accuracy to earn big points.
Crossbar Challenge presented by Gillette
As the final chance for players to earn points for their teams, this skill will test players' ability to deliver as the final seconds tick down.
Some will call it cheating to plump for the same three guys that I picked last year. But with his skills competition legend status already confirmed when he lifted Orlando City over both Team MLS and Atletico Madrid with a crossbar buzzer-beater back in 2019, Nani is a no-brainer.
Joining him for double duty is Carlos Vela, whose ability to place touch shots with mechanical precision makes him another obvious selection.