AMSTERDAM – Stateside fans couldn't be blamed for feeling a jolt of wild imagination when it was announced that former MLS and US national team star Brian McBride had agreed to suit up for infant club Wembley FC in an FA Cup match next month.
If he plays well, if they win, could the popular striker really be back in the game?
Alas, the striker assures any hopes of a prolonged return to the pitch are pie-in-the-sky. McBride won't speak for any of the other returning stars – a list that includes Claudio Caniggia, Martin Keown and Graeme Le Saux – but his return will definitely be a one-off.
"I signed on because it was a great opportunity to connect with grassroots soccer in England and get a chance to coach and mentor players of all ages," McBride told MLSsoccer.com from Chicago. "[Playing the FA Cup game] is more about trying to lead by example and less about me tearing up the soccer field."
With that practical question out of the way, the next for fans may be: How's his fitness? His player side is happy to report that coaching at his McBride's Attacking Soccer Academy keeps him in pretty good shape.
"I'm not game-fit, but I'm probably more fit then I was in my last season [with the Chicago Fire], because my body shut down for two months," recalled McBride. "The sharpness is going to be a question, but the fitness side should be fine."
So if he's in no way thinking comeback, how did McBride come to be suiting up for ninth-division Wembley when Langford visit Vale Farm for an August 11 FA Cup extra preliminary-round tilt?
He was recruited into the appearance by Wembley technical director Terry Venables and corporate sponsor Budweiser to help mentor the 66-year-old semi-pro club's young squad. The brewing giant has provided funds to the club for use with infrastructure, personnel and improved facilities.
"I think Budweiser views this as an opportunity to help bring awareness to grassroots soccer and give Wembley a platform to move forward as a club, with the hopes of Wembley one day in the future completing for trophies," explained McBride. "When you're taking part with a club that's trying to build and compete and get into the FA Cup proper, you want to help out.
"The exciting thing for me is the passion about this game doesn't change. In fact, it's probably heightened in the sense that these players have a lot more limelight on them now. That means pressure, and that pressure is what comes when clubs and players get to a higher level. It's a great experience for them."
While the FA Cup appearance will essentially be a teaching moment in a project just underway, McBride also made it clear he and the other temporarily un-retired players will take the field with a clear mission to advance.
"Even though this is a long-term project and my involvement is short-term, the game comes first in the sense that it's what's most important for the club," said McBride. "For us as players, it's going to be about going out and doing the best we can to get the win."