04/03/2008 11:57 AM ET
MLS All-Stars to face West Ham United
EPL side the latest international foe for marquee event
Looking to make it a perfect 5-0 vs. international competition, Major League Soccer announced on Thursday that the opponent for this year's MLS All-Star Game will be English Premier League side West Ham United FC. The game will take place at BMO Field, the home of Toronto FC, on July 24 at 7 p.m.
U.S. international Jonathan Spector is one of the West Ham United players set to face MLS's All-Stars. (West Ham United)
"Toronto's support of Major League Soccer has been nothing short of extraordinary, and we're thrilled to bring our All-Star Game to a sold-out BMO Field," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said.
"The TFC supporters and other fans from around the league will provide a vibrant and enthusiastic setting for the game. We are excited to partner with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment to host this memorable display of the world's game."
Behind goals from Juan Pablo Angel of the New York Red Bulls and Juan Toja of FC Dallas, the MLS All-Stars defeated Scottish powerhouse Celtic 2-0 in last year's game played at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. Angel was named the game's MVP.
In 2006 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., Houston's Dwayne DeRosario, who earned MVP honors, struck the lone goal in a 1-0 victory against Chelsea. In 2005, Jeff Cunningham struck for a brace and Ronnie O'Brien and Taylor Twellman (named the game's MVP) also scored in a 4-1 win against Fulham of the EPL at Columbus Crew Stadium. And in 2003, Ante Razov, Carlos Ruiz and DaMarcus Beasley scored in a 3-1 win against Mexican giant Club Deportivo Guadalajara at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., with Ruiz being named the game's MVP.
WEST HAM UNITED FC|
Stadium: Boleyn Ground (Capacity: 35,300)
Manager: Alan Curbishley
League: English Premier League (Current position: 10th, 44 points in 32 games played)
Top Players: Matthew Upson, Lucas Neil, Freddy Ljungberg, Craig Bellamy
Trophies: FA Cup (1964, 1975, 1980), Charity Shield (1964-shared), European Cup Winners' Cup (1965), UEFA Intertoto Cup (1999)
Founded in 1895, the East London club was originally called Thames Ironworks FC but switched to West Ham United five years later and have been playing at Boleyn Ground since 1904. Its first match there drew 10,000 fans and saw the home team defeat local rival Millwall FC 3-0.
In 1923, West Ham United won promotion to Division One and lost to Bolton Wanderers 2-0 in the first FA Cup final to be played at the old Wembley Stadium.
But in 1932, the Hammers were relegated to Division Two, longtime manager Sydney King was sacked and the club remained in that division for nearly 30 years.
Under the direction of Ron Greenwood and featuring Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, key members of the 1966 World Cup-winning England squad, West Ham captured the FA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1965.
After beating Fulham 2-0 on a brace by Alan Taylor to win the 1975 FA Cup, the Hammers reached the Cup Winners' Cup final again in 1976, but fell to Anderlecht (Belgium) 4-2.
West Ham was relegated from England's top tier in 1978, but beat Arsenal 1-0 to win the FA Cup in 1980, the last lower-division team to do so. In 1981, West Ham was back in England's top division and remained there for eight years, finishing third in 1986, before again being relegated in 1989.
After spending one year back in the First Division, West Ham went back down in 1992, but the Hammers gained promotion into the newly formed Premier League in 1993 and enjoyed a 10-year spell back in England's top flight.
On their return to the EPL one year after being sent down, West Ham finished ninth in the league and fell to Liverpool in the 2005 FA Cup final in a penalty kick shootout. Last year the Hammers fought off relegation by winning seven of their final nine games, beating Manchester United 1-0 on a goal by Carlos Tevez at Old Trafford on the final day of the season.
West Ham has also forged a reputation of cultivating some of the league's top players, with the likes of Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick having all cut their teeth there in the famed West Ham United Academy and Rio Ferdinand, who was sold to Leeds United for £18 million, the club's largest transfer fee paid to date.
Ferdinand's younger brother, Anton, is on this year's West Ham squad.
West Ham United, which currently sits in 10th place in the English Premiership, is led by Freddie Ljungberg (Sweden), Lucas Neil (Australia) and Craig Bellamy (Wales) -- who each captain their respective national teams -- as well as English internationals Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker and Kieron Dyer, U.S. international defender Jonathan Spector and Luis Boa Morte. The Portuguese forward will actually be making his second MLS All-Star Game appearance after playing for Fulham in the 2005 match.
"It is an honor to be taking part in the MLS All-Star Game this July," West Ham United CEO Scott Duxbury said. "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."
Added Upson: "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."
It should be a particularly special occasion for Spector, who will get a rare chance to play for his club team in North America.
"For me it will be nice to play in the MLS All-Star Game," Spector said on West Ham's official web site. "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 honor that West Ham has been selected to participate in the game. I am certainly looking forward to it. ... It has taken a lot of time and will probably take a lot more time, but (MLS) continues to grow. They keep adding more and more teams and it is exciting to see that as an American."
Although just in its second year of existence, BMO Field has already proven to be one of the best venues in Major League Soccer, thanks to the club's knowledgeable and passionate fan base. Toronto FC will add to its MLS-record 15 consecutive sellouts this year with every match in the 2008 season already sold out.
BMO Field was also one of the sites for the FIFA Under-23 World Cup last summer.
"The 2008 Pepsi MLS All-Star Game is a terrific showcase for Major League Soccer and its talented players," said Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and chief operating officer for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. "Adding a historic football club like West Ham as this year's All-Star opponent gives more reasons for soccer fans to look forward to this exciting event."
Dylan Butler is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.