PORTLAND, Ore. – When it was announced over the summer that the Rose City would host the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, there were many who claimed that the small but passionate community had tightened its grip on the title “Soccer City USA.”
But after Wednesday’s announcement that Bayern Munich will be the MLS All-Star opponent next summer, Portland can set its sights higher given the international showcase offered by one of the most recognized soccer brands in the world.
“It’s not just a national, but it’s an international spotlight on Soccer City USA,” Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said during the press conference to mark the announcement at the adidas America campus. “Today’s announcement of our opponent Bayern Munich really underscores that point.”
MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott, Bayern board member Jörg Wacker, along with representatives from adidas and AT&T, joined Paulson for the press conference. And it was a proud moment for Paulson, who guaranteed during the summer announcement that the game will feature one of the world’s top clubs.
Bayern Munich, the reigning Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League winners featuring some of the world’s top players in Franck Ribéry, Javi Martínez, Mario Götze and Thomas Müller, to name a few, certainly fit the bill.
“You guys made me look good on that one,” Paulson said of the league.
The power of a team like Bayern – “The MLS All-Star Game is a very important step in our international strategy,” Bayern's Wacker noted – showcased in what has become one of the best soccer environments in North America was also not lost on anyone involved in Wednesday’s announcement.
“I think it’s particularly fitting that we’re going to be having the game here in Portland,” Abbott said. “Those of you who live here and those of you who are watching and have seen games from here know what is happening here is nothing short of magical. … For us to be able to have the opportunity to expose a world-wide audience to this magic is a great opportunity for us.”
Patrik Nilsson, adidas America president, specifically credited the Timbers supporters group, the Timbers Army, for their role in shaping the passionate fan base. He said in his 25 years around the game, he’s seen nothing like it, from their raucous in-game support to their community work and advocacy around the region.
“I think the game and the team on the field is absolutely important,” Nilsson said. “But what the Timbers Army has been able to do to enhance the game around the whole city … I’ve never seen a fan group do more than what the Timbers Army is doing.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.