MLS set to kick off activities leading up to All-Star Game

Posted: July 19, 2012

NEW YORK — For the next week and a half, PPL Park, Chester and the city of Philadelphia will become a soccer mecca.

Starting with Wednesday night's match against English Premier League foe Aston Villa, the region will host a full slate of matches and events, culminating with the league's best taking on Chelsea, the reigning club champion of Europe, when PPL Park welcomes the MLS All-Star Game next Wednesday.

On Tuesday, MLS released its full slate of events leading up to the match, beginning with the launch of its Giant Ball Tour on Friday at 2 p.m. on the steps of the Art Museum, featuring MLS commissioner Don Garber and Mayor Nutter. The 20-foot soccer ball will travel around the city all next week, making pit stops at the Summer Ale Festival at the Philadelphia Zoo (Saturday, 6:30-10 p.m.); Eagles training camp at Lehigh (Sunday, 5-6 p.m.); LOVE Park (Tuesday, 4-6 p.m.); and PPL Park the night of the All-Star Game.

"We plan on making everyone in the City of Philadelphia know that the MLS All-Stars are coming to town," MLS chief marketing officer Howard Handler said. "From wrapped buses to the [giant ball] tour and other events we plan to have leading up to the match, if you didn't know the game was coming to PPL Park, you will after we roll into town."

From Monday through Wednesday, MLS will host its VIP lounge in the lobby of the Sofitel Hotel (17th and Sansom) where fans can grab ticket packages and enjoy other activities.

MLS' "soccer celebration" will run from 4 to 8 p.m. on the day of the match at PPL Park's west plaza. Basically, if you want a chance to meet MLS players past and present, a chance to get the kids out of the house and want to grab some free swag, this is the place to be.

"I have an amazing vantage point of just how much Philly fans love their sports teams that passion truly is present the minute you talk to someone," said Handler, who held a similar post with the NFL before joining MLS in January. "In my time with working closely with the Eagles, I saw the way that town embraces its sports teams, and soccer has been a big movement in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area, and we know that there was a lot of built-in support. Not only is Philadelphia and Chester deserving to host the All-Star Game, but there is no doubt in my mind PPL Park is the perfect venue to host such a world-class event."

Odds and endlines

Michael Farfan (groin) will not play Wednesday night, but should be cleared to play Saturday against Red Bull New York ... An MLS official told the Daily News that Union forward Jack McInerney was under consideration to become one of commissioner Don Garber's two All-Star selections, but said his lack of playing time hurt those chances. Suppose McInerney has former Union manager Peter Nowak to thank for that ... Garber told the People Paper his decision to select Union captain Carlos Valdes was "an obvious choice to round out a strong defensive corps."

Contact Kerith Gabriel at gabrielk@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.

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