Juventus are officially headed to Atlanta for the 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target. There, on August 1, the Italian club will face off against a group of MLS's best players in the league's annual summer showcase. If you need a primer on this year's All-Star opponent, look no further:
They're Italy's most decorated team
To put it simply, Juventus’s success in Serie A is unmatched, and it’s not even close. If you’re more closely attuned to US sports, think of them being equivalent to the New York Yankees. Juve are by far the most successful team in Italy, with more Serie A and Coppa Italia titles than any other team in the country, including a current streak of six league and three cup wins. They have also won every trophy on offer in European play, including two Champions League wins (1985, ’96), and have reached the Champions League final on seven other occasions, most recently in 2015 and 2017.
… and have a fan base to match
Befitting their status as the country’s most successful team, Juve are one of the few teams in Italy that has a truly national following. This can be attributed not only to the club’s success on the field, but also due to migrants from all over Italy coming to Turin to work for FIAT – founded and run by the same Agnelli family that has run Juventus since 1923. That combination of on-field prowess and social circumstance has led to Juventus fan clubs being established all across Italy, giving them an abundant support no matter where they travel in the nation of 60 million.
It's not just the fans who are loyal
In an era that has seen the near-extinction of the “one-club man,” Juventus continue to inspire loyalty in many of their players. Though they all started their careers elsewhere, the trio of Alessandro Del Piero (who left the club after 20 years, in 2012, as the all-time appearances and scoring leader), Gianlugi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini have played the vast majority of their club ball for Juve and become icons on the national team. Along with current midfield mainstay Claudio Marchisio – who grew up a Juve fan, joined the academy at age 7, and has been with the club ever since (save for one year on loan) – they are some of the many held in high esteem by fans for their willingness to stick with the club through thick and thin.
Juventus is not an Italian word – rather, it is the Latin word for youth, stemming from the club's foundation by a group of students in 1897. The club has also acquired many nicknames over the decades, with the most notable being La Vecchia Signora (“The Old Lady”). If that seems an odd nickname for a club whose name means youth, that's the point – the name came about in the 1930s as a pun on the club's moniker.
There’s one Juventus alum beyond all others to have made a significant mark on MLS: Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco. The 2015 league MVP joined Juve’s youth academy at age nine and appeared in 132 games across all competitions for the senior team, helping them to a pair of Serie A titles before moving to Toronto in 2015.
Andrea Pirlo is perhaps the the most recognizable former Juventus player to have later moved to MLS, while Marco Di Vaio and Antonio Nocerino are two other notable former Juve players to have played in MLS in recent years.
There's also a potential sibling connection between Juve and the MLS All-Stars – the 2018 All-Star Game could see Columbus Crew SC's Federico Higuain face off against younger brother Gonzalo.
Unsurprisingly for the most successful team in one of the world’s strongest leagues, Juve have attracted their fair share of international star power, even from outside Italy. Among the notable international stars who have pulled on the black-and-white stripes over the years are: Zinedine Zidane, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Michel Platini, Pavel Nedved, Lilian Thuram, David Trezeguet, Edgar Davids, Didier Deschamps and Michael Laudrup.
A World Cup legacy
Though Italy won’t be going to the World Cup this summer, the Azzurri remain one of the globe’s most successful teams in the tournament, and Juventus have played a large part in that success – they’ve provided more players to the Italian national team than any club in Italy, including the cores of three World Cup-winning squads.
And while Juve’s Italian contingent will be watching from afar in 2018, they will have the chance to see over 10 of their teammates take the field in Russia, some of whom stand a good chance of taking home the trophy for the likes of Argentina (Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain), Brazil (Douglas Costa and Alex Sandro), France (Blaise Matuidi) or Germany (Sami Khedira and Benedikt Höwedes).
Where'd they get the black and white?
Juve's black-and-white, vertical-striped jerseys are instantly recognizable to soccer fans across the globe. And while they share the style with England's Newcastle United, the current design was actually inspired by a different English club. In 1903, when the club made the switch from pink jerseys (which reportedly faded too easily), an English player on the team reached out to a friend back home too see if he had any more durable shirts; the friend, a fan of Notts County, sent back the black-and-white striped shirts of his favorite club, and the color scheme has stuck for over a century.
A mascot to match
Zebras aren't exactly native to Italy, but there's no questioning where Juventus got one of their nicknames: the Zebras. Inspired by their iconic jerseys, Juve now have a zebra mascot of their own, named J, since 2015. He was with the team last time they came stateside, and you can check out some of his adventures here:
South American stars
Like many MLS teams today, Juventus have a rich history of finding talent in the South American market, largely fueled by the large Italian diaspora in countries in Argentina and Brazil.
A number of the club’s biggest stars dating back to the late 1920s, including Luis Monti, Omar Sivori, and more recently Mauro Camoranesi, are all South American-born members of the diaspora who headed back across the Atlantic to play for Juve. They would go on to find great success both for club and the country of their ancestry.