Less than a year after hosting it’s first playoff game, PPL Park will be showcased on July 25th as the venue for the 2012 MLS All Star Game.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber officially announced the event at City Hall, alongside Mayor Michael Nutter and Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz. The format will not change, with a leaguewide group of top players facing an international club on their preseason friendly tour. MLS will announce the identity of the opponent at a later date.
This is a momentous occasion for the Union, heading into their third year of operation. Attendance at PPL Park has been strong and has led to early buzz of an expansion. Another obvious positive about the selection is its proximity to both New York City and Washington, DC. It also represents the continued support of soccer specificity in MLS facilities. The last time they played the match in an NFL stadium was in 2010 at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
Of course, with soccer specific stadiums come a smaller capacity. PPL Park holds 18,500, but could probably be expanded slightly for this match.. It will likely be the smallest crowd since the 2007 All Star Game, held at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in suburban Denver. It will be interesting to learn the identity of the opponent. With a smaller number of seats, a large European club could mean a premium on tickets – especially given the number of people within 3 hours of PPL Park.
From the timing standpoint, July 25th will conflict with the Olympics, so assuming the qualification goes without issue, some stars (Brek Shea, Freddy Adu, and reigning MVP David Beckham) will not be able to participate. While that may take some name recognition out of the MLS squad, usually the opponent is as much the draw as the squad of MLS standouts.