ORLANDO, Fla. -- Bastian Schweinsteiger says his introduction to Major League Soccer at the 2014 All-Star Game kickstarted his interest in the league, and ultimately led to his signing with the Chicago Fire in 2017.
Schweinsteiger was fresh off Germany's World Cup triumph in 2014 when he joined up with Bayern Munich to take on the All-Stars in Portland, and he says that the atmosphere and pageantry of the occasion forced him to take an interest in MLS.
"I spoke to teammates, they liked it in Portland, and I was impressed by the atmosphere there and the ceremony before the game and everything around, it was great to see," Schweinsteiger told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview after MLS All-Star training in Orlando ahead of Wednesday's friendly against Atletico Madrid.
"I really kept an eye on [the league], and ... my brother was at the game, and I said to him, 'Look, actually this is pretty cool, everything here, so maybe one day I can join MLS,'" he said. "And it happened."
Schweinsteiger is one of a handful of players who've joined MLS clubs following an appearance at the All-Star Game. In each of the past five seasons, including 2019, a player from a previous All-Star opponent has signed for the league.
And the former Germany international recognizes the importance of the game to the league, both in terms of building its standing in North America, as well as its ability to serve as a recruitment tool for stars from Europe's biggest clubs.
"Of course, you feel honored to represent MLS in these sorts of games," Schweinsteiger said, "because it means a lot for the league."
And he sees the All-Star Game's standing only becoming larger in the years to come.
"I think it's getting bigger, because also MLS is growing."