While the first MLS All-Star Game occurred during the league’s inaugural season, 1996, the first match against international competition, now a regular feature of the MLS All-Star Game, did not occur until 2002 and the opposition, the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Major League Soccer proposed the match to celebrate the success of the National Team at the 2002 FIFA World Cup played in Korea and Japan. To recall a little of the tournament, the U.S. opened with a 3 -2 victory over Portugal, followed it with a 1 – 1 tie against the host South Korea team before succumbing to Poland in the final group match.
Through a late goal from South Korea against Portugal, the U.S. advanced to the Round of 16 and a date with regional rival Mexico.
Following a 2 – 0 win, the team went out unluckily to Germany 1 – 0 at the quarterfinal stage., the furthest any U.S. men’s team had advanced in the World Cup since 1930 and the first time a U.S. men’s team had won a knock-out round match.
Returning home to huge acclaim, national team manager Bruce Arena assembled a domestic side (roster) of his international team to take on the MLS side (roster) that included both international and American players.
In a match that fought weather issues, the MLS side prevailed 3 – 2 with all goals scored in the 2nd half. But, almost before the action got under way, RFK Stadium in Washington, DC was under a deluge, forcing a stoppage during the first half.
Etcheverry, playing an influential role throughout the second half, was named Man of the Match. More than 31,000 attended the then new format, the 4th largest attendance for an MLS All-Star Game.
Since that year all the MLS All-Star matches have all been international in form except one (2004). Pictures from the 2002 All-Star Game are here.
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