ST. PAUL, Minn. – First came LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium (2021), and then it was Minnesota United FC’s Allianz Field (2022) – the sites of MLS All-Star Games presented by Target, which pitted the MLS All-Stars against the Liga MX All-Stars.
But might that format between rival leagues go away in 2023 when the annual summertime event comes to D.C. United’s Audi Field?
MLS Commissioner Don Garber left the door open during his halftime interview at Wednesday’s match, which the MLS All-Stars won 2-1 behind goals from forwards Carlos Vela (LAFC) and Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle Sounders FC).
“I’m not sure we need that for our All-Star Game,” Garber told ESPN’s Taylor Twellman when asked about next year's showcase. “You have Campeones Cup coming up in September in New York City so we'll see what next year in Washington D.C. looks like when D.C. United hosts."
Don Garber HT Interview
Part of the reason, Garber said, is what awaits in the MLS-Liga MX relationship next season. That’s when an expanded Leagues Cup arrives and both leagues will pause for a month, with all clubs from both leagues competing and building off a format that started in 2019.
The full, robust Leagues Cup didn’t unfold this year. Instead, Leagues Cup Showcase games are underway and just last week saw LA Galaxy and LAFC face Chivas and Club America, respectively, in Los Angeles.
“We have done a really focused, strategic partnership with Liga MX, trying to build Concacaf into being one of the dominant confederations in the world, not just in our region,” Garber said. “The Leagues Cup Showcase the other night was amazing – 70,000 people at SoFi Stadium. So you’re going to see the [expanded] launch of that in ‘23, it’s going to be transcending what anybody ever expected.”
The MLS All-Star Game, around since the league’s 1996 inception, has featured several different iterations in years past. East vs. West games and MLS All-Stars against overseas clubs were chief among them, before the Liga MX format got underway last year.
What holds true at each match is the chance to showcase how MLS clubs are investing in infrastructure – as well as the supporters’ cultures and unique environments in each market. Soccer-specific stadiums keep coming, too, and on Wednesday it was 19,797 fans watching in the Twin Cities.
“When you think about what [Minnesota owner] Bill McGuire has done with his partners – one of the great stadiums in our league,” Garber said. “Built in 2019 and four stadiums – Columbus, Cincinnati, Austin and Nashville since then. So we set the bar high and we’re meeting that in so many other cities.”
A high bar indeed, and now we’ll have to wait and see what format awaits next summer when the All-Star Game comes to the nation’s capital.