The festivities started early. Nearly three hours before the MLS All-Stars were set to take on Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, hundreds of fans — many local, plenty making the game a stop on their Central Florida vacation, and a couple dozen Inter Miami fans — lined Church Street in front of Exploria Stadium ready to celebrate soccer and, for many, take in their first chance to see some of the biggest stars in the world’s game.
Inside the stadium, America — and whoever else throughout the world was watching — got a chance to see what Orlando soccer was all about.
Shortly after 7 p.m., an hour before kickoff, the famous Florida summer rain showers came, delaying the game over half an hour because of lightning — and it never went away. It rained steadily throughout the entire match, waiting until just after the final whistle to cease.
In the stands, the sold-out crowd of 25,527 was loud, energetic, and never stopped bringing the noise, even as the game dulled out towards the end of the first half. For better or worse, the Orlando contingent in The Wall brought the same level of passion they bring on a nightly basis to Orlando City matches.
And on the field, the purple team even struggled a bit.
A true dedication to soccer in Orlando.
Orlando has had its moments in the spotlight before having hosted a pair of U.S. Men’s National Team matches, but this game felt different. The week leading up to the main event was a much different, community-focused, soccer celebration, evolving about the best of what soccer does and can do in the City Beautiful.
Orlando City walked away with wins in the eMLS All-Star Challenge and Skills Challenge — taking home $25,000 for the Orlando City Foundation with those victories. They held community events to give back, including packing over 100,000 meals for the Greater Orlando community.
It’s a week that we can look back on for a while and be happy about the way it all went down.
MLS may not have won the All-Star Game, but Orlando can still chalk this one up as a win for the club and community.
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