West Ham United have been chosen to take part in the 2008 Pepsi MLS All-Star Game in Toronto, Canada on Thursday 24 July.
In the high-profile match, which kicks off at 7pm local time and is set to be televised around the world, the club will take on a selection of Major League Soccer's best players. These will be chosen from the 14 participating clubs, under the name of the MLS All-Stars and could potentially feature LA Galaxy and England's David Beckham. The fixture will be played at BMO Field, home of Toronto FC. Last year's game, also played under the theme of 'MLS Takes on the World', saw the All-Stars win 2-0 against Celtic.
West Ham United CEO Scott Duxbury said: "It is an honour to be taking part in the MLS All-Star Game this July. The club has a strong global fan base and we are working hard to increase our international exposure as well as help the game develop at grassroots level across North America. Our players are all looking forward to the challenge. It will be a great experience both for the established names in our squad and our talented youngsters. We are sure it will be a competitive and memorable occasion."
MLS Commissioner Don Garber said: "Toronto's support of Major League Soccer has been nothing short of extraordinary ... The TFC supporters and other fans from around the league will provide a vibrant and enthusiastic setting for the game." Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment who are staging the game in conjunction with MLS, added: "This midseason event will earn exposure for our great city in more than 100 countries, while providing an economic injection to tourism."
West Ham United and England defender Matthew Upson said: "It is a fantastic opportunity for us to take on the MLS All-Stars in Canada. Football is huge over there right now and it will be a really exciting match in front of a sell-out crowd where we will get to test ourselves against some of the best MLS players which will serve as great preparation for the new season."
The match will have special significance for Jonathan Spector, the West Ham United and United States defender, who could come up against some former colleagues and international team-mates. "It will be a lot of fun," he said. "They will be in the middle of their season, it will be pre-season for us, so the goals of the two teams will be completely different but it is certainly something that we will all be looking forward to. It will be a good test for us in our pre-season preparations.
"For me it will be nice to play in the MLS All-Star Game. It is a big game for them and they have played some big clubs. Chelsea have gone out there and some other really well known clubs. It is an honour that West Ham has been selected to participate in the game. I am certainly looking forward to it." Spector added that he believed the MLS would continue to go from strength to strength. "It has taken a lot of time and will probably take a lot more time but the league continues to grow. They keep adding more and more teams and it is exciting to see that as an American."
Major League Soccer is now into its 13th season since being launched back in 1996 and has steadily grown into the 14-team competition featuring teams from across the United States and Canada. Further expansion is taking place all the time with an additional two teams due to be taking part by 2010. Clubs are divided into two divisions - Eastern and Western - and play a 30-game campaign before the end of season play-offs to determine who is crowned MLS champion. Houston Dynamo have won the last two titles.
whufc.com will have more information as and when confirmed regarding the MLS All-Star game. Also to come are full details of the programme - with the North American tour commencing in the United States before the high-profile international climax in Toronto, Canada. For more information on tickets for the MLS All-Star Game, visit www.torontofc.ca or www.mlsnet.com