Major League Soccer is bringing its All-Star game to the home of Sporting Kansas City.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Thursday that Livestrong Sporting Park would host the July 31 game between MLS All-Stars and an international club still to be determined. It will be the 10th time that MLS All-Stars have played an international opponent.
"This market has just been so incredibly exciting for all of us at Major League Soccer, and really for soccer fans throughout the United States and North America,'' Garber said. "This has been one of the great, great success stories for our sport.''
Last year's game between MLS All-Stars and Premier League club Chelsea was played at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., just outside of Philadelphia. The MLS side won that game 3-2.
The opponent for this year's All-Star game will be announced at a later date, but Garber said that Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes would serve as coach for the MLS team.
The game in Kansas City, Kan., follows a successful showing by the metro area in hosting Major League Baseball's All-Star game last summer. Fans packed every event during the weeklong festivities at Kauffman Stadium, just across the state line in Kansas City, Mo.
"You want to really highlight how engaged Kansas City is in soccer, and I think that's going to be a phenomenal opportunity for us,'' Mayor Joe Reardon said. "Last year's game against Chelsea in Philadelphia was fun to watch on TV. Now we're going to get to watch it right here.''
The past few years, MLS has brought its All-Star games to the smaller, soccer-specific stadiums that have popped up in its markets across the country.
Garber said it's important to reward those who invested in the facilities rather than playing the game at a larger stadium that could generate more revenue. That's why the game will be played at Livestrong Sporting Park, which opened in 2011, rather than at Arrowhead Stadium, the home facility of the Kansas City Chiefs.
"There's been a massive financial commitment by the team and the community to build this stadium, and they deserve to have this showcase rather than playing it in a larger venue where we could arguably make more money,'' Garber said. "We're proud of that.''
Livestrong Sporting Park has already become one of the jewels of MLS. It hosted the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Olympic qualifying rounds last summer, along with the CONCACAF Gold Cup the previous summer, when the $200 million stadium had just opened.
Sporting KC's average attendance last season, when the club won the regular-season Eastern Conference championship, was 19,404 - well over the listed seating capacity of 18,467, thanks to a number of areas where standing-room tickets are sold.
"The goal and vision for the club is to win MLS Cups. Let's always be clear,'' said Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman. "But this is a great day for the stadium and the city. It's the kind of event we always wanted to have, and for it to come to fruition so quickly is a great thing for us.''