PORTLAND, Ore. – One day after JELD-WEN Field saw the U.S. Men’s National Team open their 2013 Gold Cup, Major League Soccer announced the league’s 2014 All-Star Game will take place in Portland, a surprisingly early confirmation of a host city.
This year’s host, Kansas City, wasn’t revealed until six months before late July’s game against AS Roma. This time, however, the league is not even waiting for suspense to build. Out of nowhere, the league’s committed 12 months ahead of time, with next year’s game set to take place in “late July or early August, 2014.”
“The Portland Timbers and their passionate fans have certainly earned the honor of hosting the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber said at a Wednesday press conference, also attended by Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson and Portland mayor Charlie Hales. “This match will showcase to an international audience the incredible devotion to the game in the Pacific Northwest that serves as one of the most important stories for our league.”
Alluding to Portland as “Soccer City, USA,” Paulson called the event “the first major All-Star Game of any sport ever in Portland.”
“Portland is a soccer town, pure and simple,” according to the mayor. “We are honored that our city has been chosen to host the [game].”
The timing of the announcement was the focus yesterday, when Major League Soccer revealed a Wednesday press conference would be held in Portland. With the city’s mayor set to join Paulson and Garber, it didn’t take James Moriarty to figure out the All-Star Game was coming to Cascadia. Why, however, was it being announced so early?
In the past, getting a team to commit to the All-Star Game meant the franchise would eliminate a date for a potentially lucrative summer friendly, something many teams are unwilling to do so far in advance. Portland, however, has not drawn the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona, and Real Madrid to JELD-WEN. And with a capacity of just over 20,000, it’s becomes cost-prohibitive to do so. The Timbers don’t have to make the same trade offs.
Another issue the Timbers have in luring potential friendly competition to Portland — their fine-but-let’s-act-like-we’re-in-1972 turf — could be a factor in recruiting an opponent to JELD-WEN. While the capacity issue becomes less of a concern when Soccer United Marketing’s willing to absorb the cost in the name of one of the league’s two marquee events, a European club’s willingness play on turf may ultimately reflect our antiquated attitudes. Will MLS and SUM face a “temporary grass or no” ultimatum from a Barcelona-esque club?
(MORE: Steve takes another run at the turf debate in the wake of a complaint-less day at the Gold Cup.)
With today’s announcement coming one year before the game, expect those issues to be put on the back burner. For now, all we know about the 2014 game is that one of the most renown atmosphere is Major League Soccer will host next year’s showcase.