Manchester United is a soccer team with a global following, so the fact that it is coming to the United States this summer to play Major League Soccer teams, shows the progress of MLS, now in its 15th season.

That was the opinion of Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz and former Manchester United star Denis Irwin. The two were on hand earlier this week to promote the July 21 game between the Union and Manchester United at Lincoln Financial Field. (The time of the game is still undetermined).

"The fact that Manchester United is playing MLS teams shows the strides the league has made," said Irwin, who played 12 seasons for United until 2002 and now is a television analyst for the team.

According to Irwin, Manchester United will begin preseason camp July 5. The team faces Celtic of the Scottish Premier League on July 16 in Toronto, then after meeting the Union, will play another MLS team, the Kansas City Wizards, on July 25 before concluding the tour July 28 against the MLS all-stars in Houston.

The Union will face Celtic at PPL Park at 8 p.m. July 14.

"The fact that Manchester United is playing MLS teams when coming here is a nod of respect to our teams and our league, and it means that the quality of our team and league has gotten to the level at which clubs like Manchester United and Celtic feel they can get a good match," Sakiewicz said.

The two teams will have different goals. Manchester United will just be rounding into shape. The Union, now 1-5-1, hope to be back in the playoff hunt.

"The players may be a little rusty, but when you put on the Manchester United jersey, you play to win," Irwin said.

Sakiewicz says being exposed to a team the caliber of Manchester United will benefit Union starters and reserves.

"I hope players who normally don't get time get in, and we are there to have a good football match and entertain what is going to be a large crowd," Sakiewicz said.

He said tickets sales are already near the 25,000 mark before a full-fledged marketing effort has even begun.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.