For a game that would come close to filling the expansive Lincoln Financial Field (if not sell it out), PPL Park's 20,000-seat capacity will be showcased worldwide. But it started with an unwritten promise that a commissioner pledged to a city when the idea to have an MLS franchise in Philadelphia looked like a reality.
"It starts with everything we can to try and support our new teams and to support those clubs that are able to build a soccer-specific stadium with lots of public support," Garber said. "So our agreement to bring the game here was even part of the entire package that we put together with [then Pennsylvania governor] Ed Rendell at that time, folks from the county, officials from the city of Chester that, ‘If you support us, we will bring you a big event.' "
A big event at a small venue isn't out of the ordinary. Since Garber and the league have decided to show soccer-specific stadiums some love, they haven't been disappointed. Last season, 26,760 sold out Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., as club power Manchester United drubbed the MLS's best, 4-0. The most recent time the league went with a non-soccer facility was in 2009, using Houston's Reliant Stadium for the All-Stars vs. Manchester United. The result? A 5-2 loss for the All-Stars, but a win for MLS, who saw 70,728 take it all in.
For Philadelphia, this is the first All-Star Game of any major sport since the NBA held its version at the Wells Fargo Center (then First Union Center) in 2002. Before that, Veterans Stadium held Major League Baseball's All-Star classic in 1996, and the Flyers hosted the NHL game at the Spectrum in 1992.
For MLS, along with its promise to prospective investors and the like, Philadelphia/Chester appeared the perfect place to show the tremendous amount of fandom that soccer continues to grow across the country and now into Canada, with the inclusion of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal into the MLS landscape.
"When you talk about PPL Park, Philadelphia and Chester, you have to talk about the fans," said Nelson Rodriguez, MLS' vice president of competition and game operations. "It is such a great sports town and they just support all of their professional and collegiate teams. The Sons of Ben and the wider fan base that have adopted the Union has been amazing. Bringing our special event to Philadelphia is in part a reward to that fan base and that ownership group which in a very short time has established that organization as a fixture in the community."
From wrapped buses strolling up and down the Parkway, to a giant soccer ball hitting the Phillies game, Major League Soccer is out to show its appreciation to a city that has shown soccer some love.
Philly is known as the City of Brotherly Love, but in this case it's MLS that loves Philly back. The Union is still in full swing, and on Aug. 12 Real Madrid will host Celtic as the summer of soccer in the Philadelphia region rolls on.
"Philadelphia is a big-time soccer market, it's part of why [MLS] is so successful," said Garber, "We have no doubt this will be a very successful game and only add to sort of this great celebration we have this summer with so many international games in the United States."
Contact Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sprtswtr.
The Daily News will cover the daily events and what to expect leading up to Wednesday's MLS All-Star Game, pitting the league's top players against Chelsea, at PPL Park (8:30 p.m., ESPN2). Events noted with "p" are open to the public:
8 a.m.-6 p.m. p-MLS VIP lounge, Sofitel Hotel (17th and Sansom streets). Fan info on events happening in and around the city, ticket packages and more are available directly inside the lobby.
10 a.m.-noon. MLS All-Stars train at NovaCare Complex.
12:15 p.m. Chelsea arrives into Philadelphia via 30th Street Station.
6 p.m.-8 p.m. Mayor's All-Star welcome, Hotel Palomar (17th between Walnut and Chestnut). Mayor Nutter and MLS commissioner Don Garber welcome both the MLS All-Stars and Chelsea to the region in advance of Wednesday's match.
— Kerith Gabriel