Frank de Boer - Atlanta United - on the sideline vs. Sporting KC

Much of the 2020 offseason in Major League Soccer has involved players departing Liga MX for clubs north of the border, and Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer has some thoughts on what it means for the league’s long-term future.

He spoke on that very topic to Mexican media before the club’s preseason friendly this evening against Leones Negros, a match that’ll commemorate the 60th anniversary of Estadio Jalisco. De Boer referenced the presence of Pity Martinez in his squad, as well as the acquisition of center back Fernando Meza as part of a deal after Leandro Gonzalez Pirez joined Club Tijuana.

“It’s very good that there are players like Fernando [Meza] and Pity in MLS, because they are going to raise the level of MLS; now there are many players that want to be in MLS, including Mexicans,” De Boer said. “We are proving that the difference between Liga MX and MLS is closing, now that MLS has much more quality.”

That closing gap comes into focus for the Five Stripes’ next week, when they face Motagua on Feb. 18 in their Concacaf Champions League opener. An MLS team has never won the continental competition, though Atlanta boasts experience against Liga MX foes, with last year producing a Campeones Cup win over Club America. 

De Boer was also asked about the arrival of Javier Hernandez to the LA Galaxy, with “Chicharito” the all-time leading goalscorer in Mexican national team history. As the manager enters his second season in Atlanta, he’s also encouraged by growing reports that Rodolfo Pizarro could be bound for Inter Miami CF.

“I think it’s fantastic that players like Pity want to play in MLS and even moreso with our club,” De Boer said. “But Chicharito is also a phenomenon and will be very good for the youngsters, as a player and as a professional. Pizarro is also a very good player and it would be fantastic if he signs with an MLS club.”

The remarks come as Atlanta close out their preseason against Leones Negros with a 3-0-1 record thus far. Even still, De Boer can sense how MLS’ level is improving. 

“The level will surely grow because when you play with quality players the level rises,” De Boer said. “Also for US players it will be very good.”