Banc of California to host 2021 MLS All-Star Game

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Major League Soccer will play its midseason all-star game at Banc of California in August after being forced to postpone the match last summer because of COVID-19.

The game, to be played Wednesday, Aug. 25, will match a team of MLS all-stars against a team from Mexico’s Liga-MX for the first time, a league source told the Los Angeles Times. The league, which had been expected to keep the game in Los Angeles, called a Wednesday morning news conference at Banc of California, where MLS commissioner Don Garber and Mike Arriola, the executive president of Liga MX, will make a formal announcement.

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The unique cross-border format marks the latest in a series of cooperative endeavors between CONCACAF’s top two leagues, following Campeones Cup, which matches the respective league champions, and the Leagues Cup, an eight-team summer tournament.

The partnership offers benefits to both leagues and figures to grow stronger as the 2026 World Cup, to be shared by the U.S., Mexico and Canada, draws closer.

For MLS, closer ties with Liga MX helps raise the league’s profile among Latino viewers, who are far more likely to watch Liga MX than they are to follow MLS, and gives it access to Liga MX’s much larger TV audience. It also figures to bring the league’s level of play closer to that of its Mexican rival, which has won the last 15 CONCACAF Champions League finals.

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For Liga MX, meanwhile, the relationship brings several marketing and financial benefits to its teams who, seeking bigger gates and better engagement with their fans, already play dozens of games in the U.S. each year. It may also begin paving the way for a long-discussed merger of the two leagues.

Although MLS explored the use of other venues for this summer’s game, Banc of California was its preferred location given Southern California’s huge Mexican-American population, its robust Spanish-language media and its proximity to Mexico. But the league also wanted the game to be well attended, so it waited until public health officials lifted limits on attendance at sporting events before formally committing to Los Angeles.

Stadiums can return to full capacity in California on June 15. However, given the date of the all-star game, filling out two teams of “stars” could be problematic.

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Aug. 25 is less than a week before the opening of the FIFA international window, when countries will be calling up players for World Cup qualifiers. It’s unlikely any national team would be eager to see its players risk injury in a meaningless exhibition that close to a qualifier.

This summer’s game will be the second played in Los Angeles County and the second matching MLS players against those from Mexico. The 2003 game, played at what is now Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, featured an MLS all-star team against Liga MX team Chivas of Guadalajara.

The past 15 games matched MLS players against touring European clubs.

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