Our US tour really gets underway when we take on the MLS All-Stars in Washington DC, as we go head-to-head with the best the league has to offer.
It is always quite the spectacle as the American-based players try to swiftly gel in an effort to record a prestigious victory for their side, while Mikel Arteta will be hoping we can also get a positive result as well as some vital match sharpness into our squad.
It is sure to be an occasion to remember, and here is everything you need to know before kick-off:
What is the MLS All-Star Game?
One of the highlights of the US soccer calendar, the All-Star Game has taken place annually in various guises since 1996. Initially starting as an inter-conference match where the best players in the league faced each other, it eventually morphed into a dream team taking on club sides from Europe and Mexico.
This will be the 10th time the All-Stars have faced Premier League opposition, and they have won five of the previous nine. However, this is the first time since 2016 it has happened, when we were their opponents.
What happened when we last met?
That 2016 game took place in San Jose, when Arsene Wenger’s team came up against the likes of Didier Drogba, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, Clint Dempsey and Sebastian Giovinco.
Wenger handed Rob Holding his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt, while Mohamed Elneny was also among our starters. We started well when Joel Campbell gave us the lead from the penalty spot early on, dusting himself down to confidently fire past Andre Blake.
The match looked set for penalties after Drogba fired the All-Stars level just before half-time, but Chuba Akpom - named the game’s MVP - would have the final say when he converted from Nacho Monreal’s inviting low cross.
Where is it being held?
The All-Star Game is held in a different city every year, and this time Washington DC gets the honour. It will take place at Audi Field - a 20,000-capacity venue which was opened in 2018. It is the home of DC United, who are one of the most decorated clubs in the league having won four MLS Cups as well as a Concacaf Champions Cup.
It has previously held two US men’s and women’s internationals and is also where the Washington Spirit and DC Defenders American football team play.
How does the All-Star game work?
The match will be 90 minutes long, and there will be no extra-time if the scores after level at the end of the game.
Both teams have the benefit of using unlimited substitutions throughout the match.
Who is the All-Stars’ manager?
Wayne Rooney will be in the dugout for this game as he is in charge of the local side, completing a unique hat-trick for the former England striker who has played for and against the MLS All-Stars, and now will manage them.
Rooney took over as DC United coach last July, returning to the club he represented between 2018 and 2019. They are currently ninth in the 15-team Eastern Conference, occupying the last play-off spot having won eight and drawn six of their 24 matches this season.
How is the squad created?
28 players are in the All-Star squad for this game, which was selected through the following voting mechanisms:
- 12 players determined by a combined vote of supporters, media and players
- 14 players selected by Rooney
- 2 players selected by MLS Commissioner Don Garber
Players were eligible for selection if they had appeared in at least half of their team’s league match up until the middle of May, meaning recent Inter Miami arrival Lionel Messi couldn’t be included.
Who are their star men?
Rooney has plenty of firepower at his disposal, headlined by Nashville striker Hany Mukhtar [above] who was last season’s MLS MVP, and currently tops the scoring charts with 13 to his name.
Also high on that list is FC Cincinnati attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga and Cristian Espinoza of San Jose Earthquakes, while Christian Benteke is also in the mix who plays under Rooney in the US capital.
Walker Zimmerman, Jesus Ferreira and Jordan Morris were all included in the USA’s squad for the 2022 World Cup, while Matt Miazga is one of a number of current US internationals also selected.
Thiago Almada became the first player from an MLS side to win the World Cup as part of Argentina’s winning squad and regularly stars for Atlanta United, with Carlos Gil the only other player to have reached double figures for assists so far this term.
How can I watch?
The game is only available to view via an MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Highlights will be available on Arsenal.com post-match.