The MLS All-Star Game is coming to Orlando, Florida in 2019--will you be ready? Learn everything you need to know about one of the best games played each year in soccer (or football, for all you international fans!), plus how you can get tickets, which players to keep an eye on, and what to do during your stay in Orlando. All that and more is below; let’s get started!
What Are the Details on the MLS All-Star Game?
Every year, Major League Soccer (MLS) puts on all All-Star Game. 2018’s game was held in Atlanta at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and in September of this year, it was announced that the 2019 game would be held in Orlando, Florida. The specific date hasn’t been announced yet (it’s usually in July, though sometimes in August), but the match will be played at the Orlando City Stadium, home to the Orlando City SC (more on that below).
The All-Star game is now a 23-year tradition, though it’s changed quite a bit over the years. When it started back in 1996, the MLS was just getting started and still learning to adapt to pressures to “Americanize” the rules. The All-Star game was an East Conference vs. West Conference event for the first few years, then switched back and forth between an MLS All-Star team and an invited international team.
In 2005, the MLS invited a European team to challenge, and that tradition has held steady ever since. The MLS All-Star record is currently 9-7, and the roster of players is chosen based on an elaborate system that takes into account fan votes, appointed managers, and the league’s commissioner.
Key Players to Watch This Year
As with any all-star game, the discussions leading up to the final roster are intense and multi-faceted. Every fan has a favorite player and loves to “play coach,” and it’s the coach, himself, who makes the final selection.
Last year’s All-Star Head Coach was Gerardo “Tata” Martino from Atlanta United; you can see the roster he chose from for the 2018 game here. Martino selected from stars such as Darwin Quintero from Minnesota United and Ezequiel Barco from Atlanta United, his home team.
What Will Playoffs Tell us?
As we’re writing this, the MLS Cup Playoffs are in full swing, so it’s still early to pick All-Star favorites, but we’re keeping an eye on these matches since they’ll likely produce some of our all-star rosters. That said, there are no guarantees; 2017’s champion, for example, has already been eliminated from postseason play (that’s Toronto FC, for those who aren’t in the know).
No matter who ends up on the team, what’s guaranteed is a great time; all-star games have been averaging close to four goals per game!
This isn’t the first time the south has hosted an all-star match; 2017’s match was in Atlanta, long known for its love of football (the NFL kind, that is) and baseball and only more newly recognized for its love of soccer. Over 72,000 fans were in attendance in Atlanta, though since Orlando’s stadium holds just over 25,000, officials don’t expect the same crowd in Florida.
Don’t let the smaller stadium size mislead you into thinking the fans won’t be supportive; even given the venue’s size, it still gets 99% attendance since it opened in 2017.
It’s also great to see all-star games being held in dedicated stadiums. While in the past, many games have been played in American football stadiums (such as Houston’s Reliant Stadium in 2010 against Manchester United) or other multi-purpose venues, more and more clubs are getting stadiums.
This, in part, is a testament to the United State’s newfound (but now very fervent) love for soccer!
Back to Orlando
It isn’t the first time the all-star game has been hosted in Orlando, however. The 1998 all-star game was held at the Citrus Bowl (an American football stadium) in Orlando, where, even back then, it attracted over 30,000 fans. Thanks to goals scored by stars like Brian McBride, Preki, Tab Ramos, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, and Roy Lassiter, the All-Stars won 6-1.
Don Garber, the MLS commissioner, explained that a key part of the league’s decision to move the game to Orlando was the city’s commitment to soccer and bringing the all-star even to the city. Plus, says Garber, “there's lots of public support for this even if it's not financial support.”
What We Can Expect From Past Games
As we’ve already mentioned, the all-star games are packed with excitement. We’ll talk more about how to score tickets below, but let’s face it: it’s going to be tough because the stadium is so small compared to demand. Fortunately, you can expect the game to be streamed all over the world.
You can even expect exciting features, like how ESPN interviewed Brad Guzan, All-Star’s goalie, while he was on the field! This was accomplished using a wireless mic, and it gave avid fans the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be, almost literally, in the center of the action (you can see that amazing interview on video here)!
A Great Record--But It’s Not Secure
The MLS All-Stars have a great winning record, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing--not be a long shot! In 2018’s game, the All-Stars played the Italian club Juventus. Each team scored a single goal, and the draw resulted in penalty kicks, where the All-Stars lost to the Juves who won 5-3.
It’s the penalty shoot-out that helps up the ante on the all-star games. Instead of using the normal thirty minutes of extra time, in the event of a tie the games go directly to the penalty shoot-out for some, quite often, breathtaking action!
Still, the All-Stars present a strong, united front more often than not, and have won matches against some of the best clubs in the world, such as Chelsea (3-2 in 2012), Fulham (4-1 in 2005), and Tottenham Hotspur (2-1 in 2015).
How to Get Tickets
The MLS website explains that the best way to get tickets for the MLS All Star Game is to become an Orlando City SC season ticket holder. With a season membership, Orlando City SC guarantees you the opportunity to purchase MLS All Star Game tickets.
As of this writing, it looks like there are less than 1,000 season tickets left--and less than a hundred left on the sideline. Most remaining seasons tickets are approximately $500 per seat, but there are a few in better spots that are more than $700.
Membership also gets you courtesy tickets to some Orlando Pride matches, as well as discounted single-game tickets, discounts on concessions, trade opportunities, and of course--priority access to All-Star tickets!
What to Do if You’re Not a Season Ticket Holder
If you are not an Orlando City SC season ticket holder, you’ll have to wait for the lottery, which provides tickets for the general public. This will take place at a later note, but to be notified, enter your information here to win a chance to purchase a ticket later. It probably wouldn’t hurt to also follow Orlando City SC and the MLS on social media, as well, to make sure you stay abreast of all-star updates as they become available.
Here are their social media accounts:
What to Do in Orlando While You’re There for the Game
Orlando, Florida sits inside the very center of the state. While we don’t yet know the exact date for the 2019 MLS All Star game, what we can promise is that it will be hot! Make sure you pack an umbrella, however, as this part of Florida is always prone to sudden rainstorms during the summer.
Whether you’re jetting in just for the game or planning to stay for a week or more, Orlando has tons of things to do. The All-Star game itself will be hosting tons of festivities; past events have included concerts with major headliners like 2Chainz and Macklemore, plus a variety of smaller events throughout the city.
While you’re in Orlando, don’t forget to check out Epcot and Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, or try the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Universal Studios.
A Game to Remember
There’s no doubt the 2019 MLS All Star game will be a match to remember; follow Orlando City SC and MLS, as well as your favorite players, on social media so you can make sure to get all the latest information as it breaks!