When Major League Soccer announced late July that the 2010 All-Star game would be played in Houston, there was much speculation as to where the event would be held. The Houston Dynamo currently call Robertson Stadium home, but Reliant Stadium is just so much prettier.
The Dynamo front office held a press conference yesterday to announce the location of the All-Star game. The press conference was held at Reliant Stadium. (Hmm, I wonder if that had anything to do with the planned location to next year's mid-summer soccer classic.)
Ending all speculation, Reliant was named the location to host the MLS All-Stars against an international club.
"It's a real honor for us to be able to bring MLS players and the opponent into a building like this, which has seen great, great soccer in the last seven years since it opened," said Oliver Luck, the Dynamo's president and general manager. "When you talk to people around the sports business, they recognize that this is a very special building for soccer. The events that have taken place here over the years have been great games with great crowds, and we believe this game will be very much in that mold."
But having the game at Reliant, which is more than twice as large as Robertson Stadium, opens up the question of just who the All-Stars will play that night.
In case you're not familiar with the MLS All-Star Game format, the MLS went away from the traditional conference vs. conference format that the NFL, NBA, and MLB use. Instead, MLS gathers its best players league-wide and pits them against an international club from a high-level league.
The game is held at the midway point of the MLS regular season, which happens to be the off-season for most international leagues. Some of the big name clubs that have played the MLS All-Stars are Chelsea FC, Celtic FC, and CD Chivas of Guadalajara.
"It's amazing how far the event has come in popularity, in quality, and in competition-level," Chris Keeney said. Keeney is the general manager of Lone Star Sports and Entertainment, the marketing arm of the Houston Texans and Reliant Stadium.
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The date and opponent has yet to be announced. Traditionally, the game is held in late July, early August. The date and venue, however post a serious question. Who the hell is going to play?
The All-Star game this year was held at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT, against Everton FC of the English Premier League. Even though it sold out the 18,000-seat stadium, there's no way a club the caliber of Everton will draw 70,000 fans. Back in 2006, a game between FC Barcelona and Club America of Mexico sold out Reliant. It would be obvious to most people that a big European club, ala a Barcelona, an AC Milan, or a Manchester United would have to come for the game to be a success.
However, there's one tiny, little problem: the All-Star Game would be held at some point around the 2010 FIFA World Cup. MLS will not hold the All-Star Game when all the American players worth watching will be at the World Cup, not to mention David Beckham taking Posh and the kids to South Africa.
The only logical date would be sometime after the tournament is over, but will the big names be willing to play in a meaningless exhibition match? We'll find out.