We’re just past the halfway point of the 2023 MLS season, but even with the CONCACAF Gold Cup underway, the league doesn’t stop for anyone. 

Sandwiched in the middle of July, shortly after the Gold Cup Final, we get treated to the 2023 MLS All-Star Game, featuring a fan, coach, and commissioner-selected MLS XI against Premier League runners-up Arsenal. 

This is your early look at the All-Star game, from the picks to a prediction for the friendly exhibition match. 

When is the 2023 MLS All-Star Game?

The MLS All-Star Game takes place on July 19, 2023, at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

The game doesn’t offer a break in the MLS season, with frontrunners FC Cincinnati set to play in the league three days prior and then in the Leagues Cup on July 24. 

On June 24, the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup got underway and won’t conclude until July 16.

So, North American soccer fans will get to enjoy that major international game just before the MLS All-Star Game. 

Who Will Play for the 2023 MLS All-Star Team?

The 26 players of the 2023 MLS All-Star Team were selected via a combination of votes, head coach picks, and two special inclusions from the commissioner.

A final squad of 12 players voted in from fans, players, and media outlets, 12 picked by head coach Wayne Rooney, and another two from Don Garber was announced on June 27, offering plenty of time for the coach to make his plans before the exhibition game.

A testament to their efforts so far and +400 odds to now win the MLS outright in the soccer betting, FC Cincinnati boasts three star players (Álvaro Barreal, Matt Miazga, and Luciano Acosta) getting in directly from the votes.

Nashville FC, currently third in the Eastern Conference and +1000 to win it all, come in as the next best-represented with Walker Zimmerman and Hany Mukhtar getting voted into the team. 

Behind them, Rooney picked two of his own players from D.C. United (Tyler Miller, Christian Benteke), while LAFC (Ryan Hollingshead, Dénis Bouanga), St. Louis City (Roman Bürki, Tim Parker), Atlanta United (Thiago Almada, Giorgos Giakoumakis), and Columbus Crew (Aidan Morris, Lucas Zelarayán) weigh-in with one from the votes and one from the coach’s picks.

Commissioner Don Garber used his two selections to bring along Kei Kamara of the Chicago Fire as well as CF Montréal midfielder Mathieu Choinière.

Overall, it’s a strong and competitive squad for Rooney to deploy into whatever formation he wants.

As D.C. United fans will know from this season, the Englishman will happily deploy three, four, or five-at-the-back systems.

Arguably three of the most impressive performers in the MLS this season have been Zelarayán, Almada, and Bouanga, so hopefully, the three can all fit into a starting XI, likely with Zelarayán and Bouanga on the wings.  

As the league’s leading scorer, Mukhtar should be Rooney’s go-to striker; however, with his preference for a heftier striker with more of an aerial threat (à la Benteke), he may instead side with Giakoumakis.  

Given his excellence for FC Cincinnati this season, Miazga looks to be an all but certain starter at center-back, most likely with Barreal on his left side – be it as a full-back or wing-back.

Who Will Play for Arsenal at the 2023 MLS All-Star Game?

It’d certainly be nice to see a full-strength starting XI play most of the 90 minutes for Arsenal, but as they’ll be treating this as part of their summer friendlies and warm-up schedule, we’ll likely see a lot of rotation. 

Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Jesus, and Thomas Partey will likely see the field, but a swarm of half-time substitutions is usually seen in friendlies as Premier League managers don’t want to risk any major injuries. 

It should give a chance for a bunch of top young Gunners to flex their skills and try to catch the eye of boss Mikel Arteta. Marquinhos, Omari Benjamin, Cătălin Cîrjan, and Ethan Nwaneri may fancy their chances in D.C.

Out at +775 in the betting to win the Premier League, you know that Arsenal will be working to bring in plenty of new stars to power up the squad, many of whom would see minutes in friendlies to get them accustomed to the team’s style.

Among the biggest names touted for a move to the Emirates Stadium right now are defensive midfielder Declan Rice, superb attacking midfielder Kai Havertz, and defender Jurrien Timber from Ajax.

Which Team Will Win the 2023 MLS All-Star Game?

The MLS All-Stars have won each of the last two of these exhibition games, but those two were part of the series with the Liga MX All-Stars. 

We have to go back to 2015 to see the MLS All-Stars get the better of European competition. In this game, David Villa and Kaká scored to double Harry Kane’s effort, sealing a 2-1 triumph.

Since then, Arsenal have won 2-1, Real Madrid won on penalties after a 1-1 game, as did Juventus, and then Atlético Madrid stole the show in 2019 3-0. 

This Arsenal team is already very strong and will showcase its depth. Add in Rooney being a relatively inexperienced manager and Arteta almost winning the Premier League last season, and the Gunners are the natural favourites here.

Most MLS All-Star Games end with both teams scoring, and as Arsenal might play a young or backup goalie for the 90 minutes and flip through their squad throughout, the high-powered MLS attack will certainly get its chances. 

So, let’s go with a very early call of Arsenal to win 3-1 on the day.

*Credit for all images in this article belongs to AP Photo*

Ben is very much a sports nerd, being obsessed with statistical deep dives and the numbers behind the results and performances.

Top of the agenda are hockey, soccer, and boxing, but there's always time for the NFL, cricket, Formula One, and a bit of mixed martial arts.