Chester, center of soccer universe

Since PPL Park was constructed, fans have been packing the stands for Philadelphia Union matches along the historic Delaware waterfront in nearby Chester.

The fan support, anchored by the Sons of Ben, is one reason that Major League Soccer awarded this area with an expansion club in 2010.

Two-plus seasons later, PPL Park is hosting the MLS All-Star Game — tonight at 8:30 — against Chelsea FC. To be awarded the All-Star Game in just their third season shows what type of backing the Union have from the fans. It’s a definite statement.

It’s also something players have noticed. They’re looking forward to the event and playing in the gorgeous stadium.

“The Philadelphia market is a great, great market,” L.A. Galaxy star forward Landon Donovan said. “The fans are loud and supportive and rally behind their club. It’s a tough place to play. I think Philadelphia is really deserving of this event and I know, we as players, are excited about playing at PPL Park. It should be a terrific atmosphere for the players and especially for the fans.”

Union defender and captain Carlos Valdes understands firsthand what the atmosphere will be like. He sees it all the time.

“I think we have the best fans in the league,” Valdes said. “I expect the atmosphere to be incredible for the All-Star Game. It’ll be a bit different here instead of a Union match, but I expect the fans to be loud and pushing the MLS All-Stars as much as possible.”

Galaxy midfielder David Beckham is expected be among the MLS All-Stars. (He skipped a friendly Tuesday to make room on his schedule).

And all of this will be happening at PPL Park — quite an accomplishment for a young franchise.

“This area deserves the game and the fans are awesome here,” said D.C. United coach Ben Olsen, also the coach of the MLS All-Stars. “The fans should be treated to be a fantastic night. I’m a coach, and also a fan of the game, and this is exciting for the Philadelphia area to be hosting it.”

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