MLS All-Stars vs. Real Madrid | 2017 MLS All-Star Game Preview
MLS All-Stars vs. Real Madrid
2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target
Soldier Field – Chicago
Wednesday, August 2 – 8:30 p.m. ET
WATCH: FS1, Univision, TSN, TVAS
For a few hours on Wednesday, the eyes of the soccer world will turn to Chicago as the MLS All-Stars take on reigning UEFA Champions League and Spanish La Liga champions Real Madrid at Soldier Field.
The match will feature some of the biggest names in the sport, with Madrid's loaded roster including Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Isco and others.
Of course, Real Madrid aren’t the only team who will run out world-class players on Wednesday. The MLS All-Stars boast some big names of their own, with Orlando City captain and ex-Real Madrid man Kaká joined by NYCFC star and Spanish legend David Villa, Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toronto FC attacker Sebastian Giovinco and a cast of US national team stars and promising up-and-comers.
After falling to Arsenal, 2-1, last year to drop their first All-Star Game since 2013, MLS’s best will be looking to restore their winning ways against Real Madrid on Wednesday. Helmed by Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic, the All-Star Team roster features a solid mix of longtime European stars, US national team leaders Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Tim Howard and promising youngsters Miguel Almiron and Kellyn Acosta.
Kaká and Villa in particular have long histories with Madrid. Kaka played for Real from 2009-13, winning one La Liga crown, one Copa del Rey and recording 23 goals in 85 overall appearances for the club. He teamed up with several players on Madrid’s roster for Wednesday's match, including Ramos, Benzema, Marcelo and Modric. Villa suited up against Los Blancos for many years, facing off against the club in a number of memorable encounters during his days with archrivals Barcelona, crosstown foes Atletico Madrid and Valencia.
“Obviously, it’ll be nice to see Kaka,” Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane told reporters after his club’s friendly loss to Manchester United in Santa Clara, California. “He’s an important player in the history of Real Madrid. It’ll be nice for his ex-teammates to see him, as well.”
In addition to familiar All-Star selections Giovinco, Giovani dos Santos and Diego Valeri, Wednesday’s match will also feature a number of hometown selections. The surprising Fire put four players on the squad, with Schweinsteiger joined on the All-Star roster by his midfield partner Dax McCarty, MLS Golden Boot leader Nemanja Nikolic and defender Johan Kappelhof.
Of the Chicago contingent, it’ll perhaps be most interesting to see how Nikolic performs against Madrid. The first-year Designated Player has taken MLS by storm in 2017, leading the league with 16 goals in 20 regular season games. If he can bring his goal scoring form to Soldier Field, the All-Stars should be in for a fun Wednesday night.
Back-to-back Champions League titles, a record 33rd La Liga crown, a roster stacked with some of the best players in the world at their respective positions and a club legend for a coach whose young managing career is, somewhat astonishingly, living up to his on-field exploits.
Yeah, Real Madrid are in a good place right now.
They’re also in the midst of a rather busy preseason.
Zinedine Zidane’s crew are building up to the All-Star Game with three matches in the International Champions Cup. They drew Manchester United before falling in penalties to the English side in the Bay Area on Sunday, and fell to Manchester City at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday before squaring off with hated rival Barcelona in a preseason edition of El Clasico in Miami on Saturday night.
After facing off with Messi, Suarez, Neymar and Co., Madrid will fly north to Chicago for the All-Star Game on Wednesday night. The match will be their final contest before they return to Europe, where they’ll meet Manchester United again in the UEFA Super Cup in Macedonia on August 8, then take on Barcelona in the two-legged Spanish Super Cup on August 13 and 16 before opening the La Liga season at Deportivo La Coruña on August 20.
Facing a congested schedule and plenty of travel, expect Zidane to rotate his squad liberally in the All-Star Game. We’ll no doubt see some stars – this is Real Madrid, they do love to put on a show – as well as some youngsters and fringe players earning minutes throughout the match.
All-Star Game History
Real Madrid will be the first Spanish team to participate in the All-Star Game, but Wednesday’s match won’t be the first time the contest will be held in the Chicago area. Toyota Park hosted the All-Star Game all the way back in 2006, when the All-Stars surprisingly defeated a stacked Chelsea team 1-0.
This year’s All-Star Game will be the 13th straight to pit MLS against a European opponent. The MLS All-Stars are 7-4-1 with a shootout loss against European foes, and won the 2014 and 2015 matchups against Bayern Munich and Tottenham before falling to Arsenal in San Jose last year.
Prior to 2005, MLS experimented with several different formats for the All-Star Game. The most common was a traditional East vs. West matchup, though the league did have one-off All-Star Games that pit American players against MLS internationals, and saw the All-Stars take on the US national team in 2002 before hosting Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara in 2003.
MLS All-Star History
(vs. European Opponents)