Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi are members of the Fan XI for the 2014 MLS All-Star Game, Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday. The U.S. Men’s National Team duo were amongst the top players at their positions during fan voting and each receive MLS All-Star recognition for the third time in their professional careers.
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Besler (21 career caps) and Zusi (27 career caps) have each earned nine international appearances for the U.S. Men's National Team this year, more than any other players in 2014. The Sporting KC teammates both played in all four matches for the United States at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil as the U.S. finished runners-up in Group G behind eventual champions Germany and advanced to the Round of 16.
An Overland Park native, Besler became the first player from the state of Kansas to play in a FIFA World Cup. The 2012 MLS Defender of the Year debuted for the United States in January 2013 and helped lead the U.S. to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title.
Besler twice collected MLS Best XI (2012, 2013) and MLS All-Star (2011, 2013) honors prior to being named captain of the reigning MLS Cup champions for the 2014 season. The 27-year-old has made 147 MLS appearances (including postseason) with two goals and seven assists since being drafted by Kansas City in the first round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of Notre Dame.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by the fans,” Besler said. “As always, I’m looking forward to representing my Sporting Kansas City teammates and showcasing MLS. I’m excited to travel to Portland and play against Bayern Munich.”
Zusi earns All-Star accolades for a third straight year on the heels of a strong performance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He appeared in all four games for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and contributed assists in back-to-back group stage games against Ghana and Portugal.
Taken in the second round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft as a two-time national champion at the University of Maryland, Zusi has recorded 18 goals and 40 assists in 144 MLS matches (including postseason) over six seasons with Sporting KC. He was named to the MLS Best XI each of the last two years and was an MLS MVP finalist in 2012 after leading the League with a career-high 15 assists in the regular season.
“It is always nice to be recognized by the fans,” Zusi said. “With the tremendous support we get in Kansas City, the great crowds we see on the road in MLS and the number of Americans who cheered from home or travelled to Brazil for the World Cup, this is truly a great time for soccer in this country. We look forward to playing in the All-Star Game and I am honored to be included with the players who were selected.”
The 2014 MLS All-Star Game will be held at 8:30 p.m. CT on Aug. 6 at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon. The MLS All-Stars, led by Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, will take on 23-time German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in a nationally televised match-up live on ESPN2 and UniMas.
The 20 players chosen to participate in the 2014 MLS All-Star Game, along with MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s two All-Star selections, will be announced when the game day roster is revealed live on ESPN2 at halftime of Saturday’s match between Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy at Sporting Park. Kick off is at 5 p.m. CT and a limited number of tickets are available to purchase via Ticketmaster.com.
A total of 32 All-Stars (4 goalkeepers, 8 defenders, 13 midfielders and 7 forwards) will be named per the collective bargaining agreement. MLS player voting will determine the inactive roster announced on Aug. 6.
As part of the 2014 MLS All-Star festivities at Providence Park, the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game will debut on Aug. 4. Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jon Kempin and defender Erik Palmer-Brown were chosen to the 20-player roster last week to join the League’s top Homegrown players in a showcase against the Portland Timbers U-23s.
2014 MLS All-Star Fan XI
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders FC)