In every major professional sport around the United States, all-star games are much more than just a showcase of talent. The build-up to the game is often just as exciting. Leagues create multi-day parties for fans to immerse themselves in a variety of experiences and entertainment options.
Back in 1993, when the Utah Jazz hosted the NBA All-Star Game at the Delta Center, the nearby Salt Palace hosted the NBA Jam Session. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day, fans participated in all things NBA, including a slam dunk contest, 3-point shootout, 3-on-3 basketball tournament and celebrity appearances.
It was a nonstop party from sun up 'til sundown whether fans had tickets to the big game or not.
Sixteen years later, albeit on a slightly smaller scale, the all-star experience has returned to the Wasatch Front. The Major League Soccer All-Star Game will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium this Wednesday, a game that features MLS's best against Everton FC of the English Premier League.
Well before the likes of Freddie Ljundberg, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Tim Howard and Landon Donovan take the field, though, fans will be able to immerse themselves in all things MLS for a few days.
The festivities include a free concert, several meet and greets, a rockin' night club party and some community service.
Even though the MLS All-Star Game isn't quite as interactive as the NBA All-Star Game nearly two decades ago, there's enough to keep casual and die-hard fans entertained.
MLS commissioner Don Garber arrives on Monday for the festivities, and he said he's anxious to see how Utah embraces the event.
"It was a big part of our commitment to Salt Lake City and to the region that we would bring an all-star game to Dave's new stadium. Dave Checketts has been a visionary and innovative MLS owner, and he and his company have been a big driving force about building this sport in the region, and he made an incredible personal and financial commitment to building Rio Tinto Stadium, which I think will change the landscape of the sport of soccer in the mountain region," said Garber. "Without Dave and his family, it wouldn't be where it is today, so the fact that we could bring a game like this is a great gift back for him, and to the fans it will be part of many more games to come."
With the MLS All-Stars and Everton FC based at The Canyons resort in Park City, the world-renowned city in the mountains is the hub for many of the events. Both teams will train for the first time on Monday at the Park City Sports Complex, with the MLS going from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. followed by Everton from 5 to 6:30.
Later that evening, select MLS players will be available for a pair of meet and greets at local Volkswagen locations from 5 to 8 p.m. Both the Strong VW location downtown and South Towne VW will host these events.
In addition, from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m., fans who've purchased KFC Colonel's Corner tickets will be treated to an exclusive meet and greet at Rio Tinto Stadium with Chicago midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales.
On Tuesday, select MLS stars will help with the construction of an entire playground at the Northwest Recreation Center in Salt Lake City from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Later that night, the real party starts. The MLS All-Star Jam featuring a free concert from Soulive will take place at The Canyons from 7 to 10 p.m., with players from both MLS and Everton FC expected to attend. Representatives from the Guinness World Records will also be on hand at The Canyons to see if any participants can break any soccer skill records such as longest time spinning a ball on your head, currently at 19.96 seconds.
Afterward, the MLS W.O.R.K.S. All-Star Party will be held at Harry O's nightclub on Main Street in Park City, with the $10 cover benefitting the Nothing But Nets Foundation.
On game day, the festivities begin at 4 p.m. on the east lawn of Rio Tinto Stadium with a variety of activities for the family to participate in.
MLS All-Star festivities
MLS All-Stars Training
Park City Sports Complex (3:30-4:30 p.m.)
Check out the MLS All-Stars up close and personal in their first practice together.
MLS W.O.R.K.S. Nothing But Nets Clinic
Rio Tinto Stadium (4-5:30 p.m.)
Real Salt Lake's Robbie Russell and Jean Alexander will hold a clinic for local youth players.
Everton FC Training
Park City Sports Complex (5-6:30 p.m.)
Tim Howard and the gang will acclimate themselves to Utah's elevation by training in Park City.
MLS Volkswagen All Star Meet & Greet
Strong VW and South Towne VW (5-8 p.m.)
Select MLS players will be on hand at these two locations to interact and have photo opps with fans.
Blanco and Morales meet and greet
Rio Tinto Stadium (5:45-6:45 p.m.)
Fans who purchased tickets in the KFC Colonel's Corner at Rio Tinto Stadium will have an exclusive meet and greet with Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Javier Morales.
MLS W.O.R.K.S. Home Depot Community Build
SLC's Northwest Rec Center (9 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Select MLS All-Stars, Home Depot associates, organizers from KaBoom and local volunteers will be building an entire playground.
MLS All-Star Jam
The Canyons, Forum (7-10 p.m.)
Soulive will headline the MLS All-Jam in Park City. The free concert will also feature an opening set from Ogden-based band Shaky Trade.
MLS W.O.R.K.S. All-Star Party
Harry O's Park City (10 p.m.-1 a.m.)
This party on Main Street in Park City will feature the sounds of DJ Brisk. The $10 cover will benefit the Nothing But Nets Foundation.
MLS All-Star Carnival
Rio Tinto Stadium (4-7 p.m.)
Pre game festivities begin three and a half hours before kickoff.
MLS All-Star Game
Rio Tinto Stadium (7:30 p.m.)
Tickets are still available for the clash between the MLS All-Stars and Everton FC