NEW YORK – MLS Commissioner Don Garber says the league is seeking to secure the participation of a major international club for the 2011 AT&T MLS All-Star Game with the name of the team to be announced in the next 30 days.
“It will be of the caliber of clubs we’ve played in the past,” Garber said on a media teleconference call on Tuesday. “It will be a major, major international opponent. We’re in very productive negotiations with a number of teams and we should be able to finalize it earlier than we have in the past.”
The league will be maintaining the format of recent years, in which an MLS All-Star squad will face a high-profile international opponent. The MLS All-Stars have locked horns with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in recent years.
Soccer United Marketing, the commercial arm of Major League Soccer, represents La Liga leaders FC Barcelona and legendary Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara in the United States.
The Commissioner indicated that these international powerhouses look at the All-Star Game as an opportunity to build their brand in the United States and overseas, with the event attracting a large television audience which has surpassed 100 countries around the world.
And the All-Star Game will only be the tip of the iceberg as far as the international matches that the league and its clubs will host this summer, according to the Commissioner.
“We are in discussions with a number of international clubs about bringing handful of these major clubs to the USA this summer,” he said. “We’ll continue to do that both as part of the All-Star Game and as part of the international matches that we’ve held for so many years.”
New York Red Bulls Designated Player Thierry Henry, who will be eligible to play in his first All-Star Game in 2011, says the event would take on an even greater importance for him if it came against his old clubs Arsenal or Barcelona.
“It would be pretty special,” he said. “I think they are the two teams that play the best football right now in the world. That would be a great thing. If one of the two teams is involved, it would be amazing. It’s a game that is very important for us to show that we can compete with the great teams of Europe.”