NEW YORK (Tuesday, July 30, 2002) - Despite three regular-season games on tap Wednesday night, all of which are vital to an extremely tight MLS Cup Playoff race, which sees only 11 points separate teams in 2nd and 10th place, the American soccer consciousness is quickly shifting to Washington, D.C. in preparation for Saturday's 2002 MLS All-Star Game. Major League Soccer's seventh All-Star spectacular features the 2002 MLS All-Star squad taking on the U.S. National Team and will be nationally televised from RFK Stadium at 3:30 p.m. (ET), live on ABC Sports.
The event shapes up to be the greatest celebration of American soccer in the history of the sport. In a who's-who of U.S. soccer, the 2002 MLS All-Star Game will bring together the stars of World Cup past and present as the likes of Chris Henderson, Preki and Landon Donovan all suit up together for the U.S. National Team. Opposing them will be a squad of MLS All-Stars made up of the players who are set to assume the spotlight in the coming years: Tim Howard, Taylor Twellman, Richard Mulrooney and Carlos Bocanegra, each tabbed to be included in the player pool for the next World Cup in Germany in 2006.
"U.S. Soccer is honored to participate in the MLS All-Star Game," said U.S. head coach Bruce Arena. "We are proud to help acknowledge the players of MLS, who have made such great strides in establishing this league in seven short years. We are looking forward to an entertaining event and having the opportunity to thank our loyal fans."
However, the significance of the 2002 spectacle goes beyond the on-field competition. The All-Star Game will be an occasion representing the passing of the torch as veteran soccer icons like John Harkes and Alexi Lalas, kick the baton to the accomplished American youth players of MLS: DaMarcus Beasley, Donovan, Twellman and Howard. The same symbolic hand-off will also be occurring among the international players who grace MLS fields as perennial stars Carlos Valderrama and Marco Etcheverry welcome the likes of Bolivian Joselito Vaca and Guatemalan Carlos Ruiz to the All-Star Game, players who have taken MLS by storm.
The format of this year's MLS All-Star Game is unprecedented in the history of the event. While an East vs. West formula was adopted in five of the last six summer showcases, the 1998 edition also commemorated a World Cup year. Team USA, comprised of MLS stars who had competed in France '98, took on a team of World All-Stars made up from the international players in the League at the time.
A match of the magnitude of the 2002 All-Star Game will rightfully be played on the hallowed soccer field of RFK Stadium, site of countless major soccer events which featured legends of the caliber of Pele, Johan Cruyff and Romario. Washington, D.C., long recognized as one of the nation's original soccer hotbeds, will be hosting its first MLS All-Star Game. Since opening in 1961, RFK has served as home to professional soccer for more than four decades, dating back to the days of past leagues like the NASL, USA and APSL. The venue is the only one in the U.S. to have been the home to World Cup matches, Olympic soccer games, a U.S. Open Cup final, the NASL Soccer Bowl ('80) and the MLS Cup championship game ('97, '00).