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Teenagers take center stage at annual MLS All-Star game

SHARE Teenagers take center stage at annual MLS All-Star game

SAN JOSE, Calif. — When Landon Donovan looks at the rosters for Major League Soccer's All-Star game, this 19-year-old practically feels like a grizzled veteran.

For once in his soccer career, the San Jose Earthquakes' star forward won't be the youngest player on the field Saturday when he starts for the West All-Stars at Spartan Stadium.

That distinction belongs to 16-year-old midfielder Santino Quaranta of D.C. United — the youngest All-Star in North American pro sports history and a special selection by MLS commissioner Don Garber, who wants to help his league's youngest players become stars.

Chicago's 19-year-old DaMarcus Beasley will join Donovan on the West's front line. Bobby Convey, an 18-year-old midfielder from D.C. United, was chosen for the game but won't play because of hernia surgery.

"It's great to see young players getting a chance to compete against the best players in North America," Donovan said. "Younger guys in the national teams like DaMarcus and myself get some really fine experience in a situation like this. It goes a long way to getting your confidence up."

Overall, 13 All-Stars are 25 or younger, while nearly half of the participants are in their first All-Star game. The young rosters are a natural product of MLS's youth movement in the league's sixth season — but the kids won't get all the attention.

Five players were named to their sixth straight All-Star game: Jeff Agoos (San Jose), Mauricio Cienfuegos (Los Angeles), Cobi Jones (Los Angeles), Brian McBride (Columbus) and Preki (Miami).

"We may have to punish these young guys for being too good too soon," Agoos said with a grin. "We'll see how many passes Landon gets in the game."

Donovan and Beasley may learn from playing with the league's best, but they won't learn much about playing defense. Ebullient Miami coach Ray Hudson, who will lead the East All-Stars, was only half-kidding when he said his defense will consist of Fusion star Carlos Llamosa — "and that's it. One defender."

"It's going to be a real ding-dong battle, and it's going to be a jewel for the MLS," Hudson said. "We know our players are good enough to rumble with anybody in the world."

The players expect to spend most of the day upfield, and the goalies know it. West goalie Joe Cannon of San Jose wore a T-shirt with a bull's eye painted on it Thursday.