Despite suffering heavy defeats in three of the past four years, MLS continues to aim high for its annual All-Star Game opponent and it doesn’t get much higher than Bayern Munich, the German juggernaut that will face the league select team next summer in Portland.
MLS confirmed Bayern’s long-rumored participation at a Thursday news conference in Oregon. The 11th All-Star game to feature the All-Stars vs. a foreign club format will be played Aug. 6 at Jeld-Wen Field.
MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said the match will be pushed back from its traditional timing by a week in order to ensure the participation of those MLS and Bayern players who appeared at the World Cup in Brazil. He called the prospect of facing the reigning European champion “both a great challenge and a great honor.”
MLS began scheduling foreign opposition for its marquee midsummer exhibition in 2003 and did well at first, defeating the likes of Fulham, Chelsea, Celtic and West Ham United. After falling on penalty kicks to Everton in 2009, MLS started hunting for bigger game. Manchester United beat the All-Stars by a combined 9-2 in '11 and '12. After upsetting Chelsea the following year in Philadelphia, MLS finally looked beyond Great Britain for this summer's All-Star opponent in Kansas City, where it was outclassed by AS Roma.
Bayern may be better than all of them. Coached by former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, Die Roten lead the Bundesliga at 13-0-2 and won their UEFA Champions League group at 5-1-0. They'll play for their third world title next week at the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco. MLS All-Star teams face considerable logistical obstacles and usually have only one day to train together, if that, before taking the field. Bayern will present a formidable challenge.
Bayern executive Jöerg Wacker, who represented the club at Thursday's announcement, said the All-Star Game represented "A very important step in our international strategy. We see the U.S. as a very important market for us, therefore we are planning our own subsidiary in the next couple of months in New York City and a summer tour in 2014, with the highlight game [in Portland]. Our goal here in the future will be to get closer with our brand, our team and our philosophy to our more than 10 million Bayern fans here int he U.S., and we all want to get closer to all the American soccer fans."
Bayern hasn't toured the U.S. since 2004. Abbott said the match will be played on Jeld-Wen's artificial surface. The stadium seats just over 20,000 fans and hosted a CONCACAF Gold Cup game between the U.S. and Belize in July.