Denver to host 2007 MLS All-Star Game

January 25, 2007

DENVER -- Major League Soccer deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis can't discuss any topic without David Beckham's name coming up.

It's all Beckham, all the time. Not that Gazidis minds. He's become well-versed in the subject of Beckham. After announcing Thursday afternoon that this season's All-Star Game will be held in Denver on July 19, Gazidis knew the first question would be whether Beckham was eligible to play.

Beckham, who agreed this month to a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS, was expected to be free of his Real Madrid contract by July 1.

"If he's available, he will be available to be selected [for the All-Star Game]," Gazidis said. "There's two commissioner's picks. I leave you to speculate whether he'll get selected."

The Rapids certainly wouldn't mind seeing the international star come to town for the game. He's already had a tremendous affect on ticket sales throughout the league, and the full MLS schedule isn't even out yet. Within 30 minutes of the Beckham announcement, Colorado sold 60 season tickets to its new, soccer-only stadium, Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

"That's a $20,000 bump in revenue just like that," Colorado's vice president and managing director Jeff Plush said. "He's still a great player. He's very good for our sport."

The All-Star Game will feature the MLS All-Stars against Celtic FC, the top team in the Scottish Premier League. The MLS All-Stars beat Chelsea FC, another renown international team, 1-0 in last season's game.

"We used to do the East vs. West format. Then suddenly, a light bulb went off," Gazidis said of playing international competition. "We are actually in a very unique position to be able to have not just an exhibition game but a meaningful game. More than just bragging rights are at stake, but real pride. Pride in our league and our ability to compete with the best in the world."

Celtic FC will be a formidable challenge. The team has one of the most dedicated fan bases in the world and typically draws more than 57,000 to its home matches.

"They're 120 years old; we're only 11 years old," Gazidis said.

Not only will Colorado host the All-Star Game, but the Rapids are scheduled to kick off the MLS season April 7 against D.C. United -- if Beckham doesn't arrive earlier than expected, that is.

The Rapids will get a chance to show off their new 18,000-seat, $64-million stadium. The entire project, which includes 24 surrounding fields, cost close to $135 million. It's considered one of the biggest and most state-of-the-art stadiums and field complexes in the world. The Rapids had been sharing Invesco Field with the Denver Broncos.

"Invesco Field was good, but this is going to be great," Plush said. "We're excited to play there."

The city of Denver has hosted All-Star games from the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, National Lacrosse League and Major League Baseball.

"We know how to do this," said Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who attended the news conference to announce the game. "We appreciate what this means to the area and the state. Our ability to attract an international event is big."

The arrival of Beckham for the All-Star event would make the game even bigger. "He's definitely good for business," Plush said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press