When MLS All-Star week beach soccer hit Chicago today, the proceedings went swimmingly thanks to a core principle of event planning: Don’t overschedule.
It was a gorgeous day in Chicago — 80-ish degrees, plenty of sunshine. Unsurprisingly, the lakefront (which we wrote about in greater detail last week) was packed. North Avenue Beach was going to be full of people regardless, making it a perfect day for some MLS-presented beach soccer.
And, naturally, a few celebrity guests made it out.
Families, college-aged folks, older sunbirds, and plenty of soccer fans flocked to the event space MLS marked out. Some signed up as teams for the beach soccer tournament at the main pitch. Others kicked a ball around in free play with their kids. A few even took in a few rounds of cornhole. All mere steps from beautiful Lake Michigan.
But because this is MLS All-Star Week, there were bound to be a few surprises here and there. Like, you know, La Liga legends Christian Karembeu and Gaizka Mendieta playing a casual game of keepy-uppy. No big deal or anything -- especially, you know, when defending World Cup champion and Chicago Fire star Bastian Schweinsteiger showed up, too.
Once the event got into full swing (a little after noon), there was another special surprise: a footvolley match featuring Karembeu and Mendieta vs. MLS legends Brian Ching and Brian McBride. The La Liga side jumped out to an early lead, but the former MLS greats rallied late and won the day.
After the footvolley game, I caught up with McBride to talk about All-Star Week. When asked whether he thinks this will be the biggest All-Star Game ever, he hedged a little before making a bold claim.
“I think I’m a little biased because I’m from the Chicago area,” McBride said. “Coming to this city at this time of year is always the best time. I think everyone’s going to have a chance to enjoy everything this city has to offer. So I’m going to say that this is going to be the best All-Star game ever, because I’m from here.”
So what's his favorite thing about Chicago?
“You can have all the things you’d ever want to do at night-time in the city and still get away from it 45 minutes away. If you want to eat at a great restaurant, there’s a hundred great restaurants. If you want to go to a great place to hang out, there’s thousands of places," he said. "And then you’re in situations like this, where you’ve got a beach, you can rent jet skis, you can paddleboard, you can rent a boat if you want and take it out [into Lake Michigan], and still have all the nightlife that this city provides. It’s a pretty awesome city. And the people are great."
This wasn't, of course, the only chance to enjoy a free event in Chicago's amazing summer weather. Visit mlssoccer.com/allstar to find full details on all of the week's events.