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After recording a victory over their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 2015, the 2016
MLS All‐Star Game will see Arsenal challenge the MLS All‐Stars at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium –
with the American select side chasing a third consecutive win in this unique transatlantic
contest. But what is the background behind this annual Stateside fixture?…



The concept an annual All‐Star Game is a common thread that runs through the very fabric of
North American sport. Celebrated as the American national pastime, Major League Baseball
would hold its first All‐Star Game as far back as 1933, held initially to coincide with the
Chicago World Fair. That summer, an American League select side would triumph over
National League opposition by four runs to two, beginning a tradition that endures to today.

Following the Second World War, the NHL would debut its own All‐Star showdown, taking on
its preferred format of the reigning Stanley Cup champions playing against marquee stars
from the remaining teams. The inaugural NHL All‐Star Game, in 1947, would see the NHL All‐
Stars triumph 4‐3 over the then‐champion Toronto Maple Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens.

1951 saw the NBA climb aboard the All‐Star bandwagon, holding its own East vs West
exhibition game at the Boston Garden, weeks after the NFL’s equivalent Pro Bowl between
the American and National Conferences was held for the very first time.

The NFL had promoted similar matches from 1939 to 1942, only for the event to be thwarted
by wartime travel restrictions. From 1951 onwards however, the Pro Bowl would remain a
staple of the North American sports calendar.

The first MLS All‐Star Game was held during its inaugural 1996 season, adopting the
conventional format of pitting top players from the East and West Conferences head‐to‐head.

Played at New Jersey’s Giants Stadium, the match saw stars including Alexi Lalas, Roberto
Donadoni and Brian McBride tackle the likes of Eric Wynalda, Cobi Jones and Jorge Campos in
an exciting and somewhat eclectic mix of home‐grown and imported talent.
Remembered as fondly for his hairstyle as his football, Colombian midfielder Carlos
Valderrama would help his East Conference teammates to a 3‐2 win over their western
counterparts that day, becoming the fixture’s first ever MVP along the way.

Of an added trivia note, the game would also feature former Everton man and Scottish
international forward Mo Johnson, then of Kansas City Wizards, as a second half substitute.

After the East won the second All‐Star Game 5‐4 in 1997, the third yearly contest saw a shift
from Giants Stadium to Orlando’s Citrus Bowl; accompanying key changes to the format.

The 1998 All‐Star Game split the top MLS players by nationality, setting up an intriguing
collision between the leading American‐born stars and their international counterparts.

With national pride at stake, what resulted was the most one‐sided affair in the history of the
fixture, with the Americans storming into an emphatic six‐goal lead, before Mauricio Ramos
claimed a consolation at the death for his cosmopolitan comrades.

Domestic dominance assured, the All‐Star Game would then revert to its original East/West
format from 1999 to 2001; with a win apiece preceding an eventful 6‐6 draw in San Jose.

Following their impressive showing at the FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea, the US
national team were invited to take on an MLS XI in Washington for the 2002 All‐Star Game.

This unique showdown in the nation’s capital was highlighted by a barrage of second half
goals, with the MLS representatives victorious over Bruce Arena’s men by three goals to two.

Building on the 2002 success, the experiment was continued for the 2003 campaign, with the
invitation extended this time to Mexican heavyweights Chivas of Guadalajara.

Watched by a sell‐out California crowd, goals from Chicago Fire pairing Ante Rasov and
DaMarcus Beasley sandwiched another from match MVP Carlos Ruiz, as the MLS saw off the
Chivas challenge to keep their flawless record against visiting teams intact.

The 2004 All‐Star Game saw a return to the previous East vs West format, though this one‐off
revival was much the back‐up plan, prompted by practical, rather than sentimental, reasons.

The original 2004 match had been poised to pit the MLS against visitors Real Madrid. However,
the La Liga superpowers would soon abandon their Stateside trip in favour of a series of
friendlies in Japan, forcing a quick change of plan for the annual American showpiece.

As things went, another 3‐2 win over the West saw the Eastern Conference stretch their head‐
to‐head lead to three. Meanwhile, a Real Madrid vs MLS All‐Stars showdown would eventually
take place in August 2005, as the sides contested the Trofeo Santiago Bernabéu.


For more than a decade now, the MLS All‐Star Game has maintained its current format of
pitting the best of the MLS against a leading overseas club side.

To that extent, the period from 2005 to 2008 saw the MLS earn wins against Fulham, Chelsea,
Celtic and West Ham United, before Everton ended their winning streak on penalties.

While successive visits from Manchester United in 2010 and 2011 bore precious little fruit on
the field, the All‐Star Games against Sir Alex Ferguson’s crack side would further help raise
the profile of the MLS brand, both in its home market and internationally.

2012 saw the MLS reclaim bragging rights from the Premier League, as the All‐Star XI came
from behind to beat Chelsea, in a match highlighted by Eddie Johnson’s last‐gasp winner.

Meanwhile, subsequent seasons saw the cream of continental Europe hurl their hats into the
ring, with Roma supplying the opposition in Kansas City in 2013, before Bayern Munich made
their way across the pond a year later; the Bundesliga titans toppled 2‐1 in Portland.

With Tottenham beaten by the same scoreline 12 months ago, Arsenal will now become the
11th different club to compete against the MLS All‐Stars in their flagship summer spectacular,
as Arsene Wenger takes his squad to California on Thursday 28 July. AC
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