It's official! The MLS All-Stars will face Real Madrid in the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target on Aug. 2 at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Here are 10 things to know about the La Liga powerhouse:
1. Championships upon championships
Anyone who knows anything about soccer knows about Real Madrid’s historical dominance on the world stage. The famous Spanish club has won 32 La Liga titles and 11 European Cup/UEFA Champions League championships — both records. (They're currently defending champions of the latter, and are making a deep run in the tournament once again). And in 2000, they were named the “Best Club of the 20th Century” by FIFA. Not too shabby of an honor.
2. They’ve got one of the two best players in the world
Arguments over whether Ronaldo or Barcelona's Lionel Messi would take the number-one slot would fill a book. But most could agree they're the top two. And at age 32, Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo continues to light it up. In fact he scored two goals in a 2-1 Champions League win over Bayern Munich this past Wednesday. That made him the first player to reach 100 career goals in the competition.
Since joining Real Madrid in 2009 following a seven-year stint with Manchester United, the Portuguese superstar has recorded a whopping 279 La Liga goals in 260 appearances. That's second only to that Messi guy.
3. The rest of their squad also features some of the best players in the world
Ronaldo may be the biggest name, but Real Madrid also features a few other star forwards in Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, and Alvaro Morata. Few midfields have a better combo than Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, while Sergio Ramos is the perfect defensive anchor. (He's also pretty killer at scoring himself.)
CONCACAF fans know Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas well, and a Colombian midfielder you might remember, James Rodriguez, parlayed his 2014 World Cup Golden Boot into a Madrid contract, too.
4. Their manager was also once one of the world’s best players
French legend Zinedine Zidane became Real Madrid’s manager in early 2016 and has enjoyed a remarkable amount of success since then. He led Real to the Champions League title last May, becoming the seventh person to win the competition as both a player and a coach.
Zidane also coached his team to a Club World Cup crown later this year, while setting Spanish records for consecutive La Liga victories (16) and consecutive games without a loss (40). Seems like the visionary midfielder knows how to coach a bit, too.
5. Their rivalry with Barcelona? Also one of the best in the world
Another one of Zidane’s earliest accomplishments was leading Real to a 2-1 win over Barcelona to end Barca’s 39-match unbeaten run in his first El Clásico match a little over a year ago. El Clásico, of course, is one of the premier rivalries in all of sports, as Barcelona and Real Madrid perennially battle each other for La Liga, Champions League, and Copa del Rey championships. Barcelona has edged out Real Madrid for the last two La Liga crowns, while Barcelona’s 2014-15 Champions League title is sandwiched between two Real Madrid championships.
Most goals after the 80th minute – Europe’s Top 5 leagues and UEFA tournaments this season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 15, 2017
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6. The "Galácticos" era was golden
Zidane starred for Real Madrid as a player from 2001 to 2006 during an incredible stretch in which Real Madrid also acquired David Beckham, Ronaldo (the older, Brazilian one), and Luis Figo. It’s known as the first "Galácticos" era, in which Real Madrid sought to acquire at least one galáctico — or world-famous superstar — every summer. It's a philosophy by which they’ve mostly continued to abide.
7. They’ve drawn over 100,000 fans for US games
Real Madrid has a rabid fan base in the US, as evidenced by some of the huge crowds that have seen them play. Last July, nearly 106,000 people packed “The Big House” at the University of Michigan to watch Real’s 3-2 win over Chelsea in a friendly. The only other larger crowd for a soccer game in the United States? That was two years prior in the same stadium, when 109,318 people watched Real Madrid square off against Manchester United.
8. All-Stars' toughest challenge yet?
From Chelsea to Manchester United to Bayern Munich to Arsenal, the MLS All-Stars have certainly faced world powers before. But you could argue this will be the All-Stars’ toughest test to date, considering how talented the opponent is and also how familiar they are with the U.S.
9. The American connection
As Christian Pulisic paves an incredible path overseas with the Bundesliga's Borussa Dortmund, other American youngsters will likely try to follow suit. One of them is 15-year-old Californian Joshua Pynadath, who up until recently, played for Real Madrid’s vaunted youth academy. Pynadath has since moved to Dutch club Ajax.
10. Literal royalty
The club was initially called Madrid Football Club. But in 1920, King Alfonso XIII granted the club his royal patronage with the title of “Real,” which meant “Royal.” So get ready to see some kings of soccer arrive in Chicago — just don’t expect the MLS All-Stars to kneel before them.