Major League Soccer's top stars will be playing foreign competition again for this summer's All-Star event, but for the first time since 2003, the opposition won't be from the United Kingdom.
MLS announced Thursday that it will host AS Roma in this summer's All-Star Game at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., marking the first time a Serie A club will be the league's opponent in the summer exhibition. The match will provide American soccer fans a chance to see U.S. national team star Michael Bradley along with his high-profile Roma teammates like Italian veterans Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi.
"We look forward to playing against the best talent in MLS," AS Roma CEO Italo Zanzi said in a statement. "The All-Star Game has proven to be a serious and competitive match and will be an important part of our preparation for next season. We're also very happy that it will highlight Michael Bradley's important role at Roma and for the U.S. national team."
Roma will be the first non-UK opponent since MLS faced Chivas de Guadalajara 10 years ago. Since then, the league played one year of an East-vs.-West format before welcoming Fulham, Chelsea, Celtic, West Ham, Everton, Manchester United twice and Chelsea again last year in a game MLS won 3-2 at PPL Park. MLS is 5-2-1 in those games, with Everton prevailing in penalties after a 1-1 draw in 2009. U.S. goalkeepers Tim Howard and Nick Rimando squared off in a memorable shootout to cap the match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Assuming he plays, Bradley, who started his career in MLS with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls) for the 2004 and 2005 seasons before his transfer to Heerenveen sparked his European career, will join Howard, Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra as U.S. internationals to be on the opposing team during the All-Star Game.
"I think everybody over the past few years has seen what a great spectacle the All-Star Game has become," Bradley said. "Last year in Philadelphia against Chelsea you saw a good game, you saw a stadium full of people that enjoyed themselves and enjoyed the match. In all ways it will be a special night."
Bradley is not the only U.S. connection Roma has. The club's owner, Thomas DiBenedetto, is an American based in Boston. Last summer, Roma played against John Henry-owned Liverpool at Boston's Fenway Park, with Bradley scoring a goal in a 2-1 victory. As part of that tour, Roma also played Polish club Zaglebie Lubin at Wrigley Field in Chicago and the El Salvador national team at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
This season, Roma finished sixth in Serie A and runner-up in the Coppa Italia final, narrowly missing out on the chance to qualify for the UEFA Europa League.