With the MLS All-Stars a few days away from testing their mettle against their Liga MX counterparts for the very first time Wednesday (9:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMás), an office conversation predictably sprang up reminiscing about all the greats who played in both leagues.
And like clockwork, we've put together a list celebrating the best of those players who laced 'em up on both sides of the border. As you'd probably expect for this sort of honor roll, there were several easy lock picks and then a few agonizing choices to make. Several players were just a whisker away from the top 10, and I have no trouble admitting it was painful leaving some of those off the list.
The Colombia legend didn't gain eligibility for this list until he was well into his 30's. After earning a place in the inaugural MLS Bext XI with the Dallas Burn, Alvarez moved south for a short Veracruz stint before returning to the United States for five more seasons. A defensive handyman with the perfect blend of smooth skill and rough trade, he did his best work in a national team jersey.
Alvarez, who also appeared for the New England Revolution, was a big part of the first four Colombia sides to make the Copa America final four, as well as the first Cafeteros squad to reach a World Cup group stage.
The irresistibly mercurial playmaker brought a lot of winning and maybe even more fun to every team he played for during a 22-year career. Blanco is a legendary figure with both Club America and Chicago Fire FC, who came agonizingly close to reaching MLS Cup in all three of his seasons stateside.
His Mexico career was quite arguably even better. By the end of his 120 caps, "Temo" had become the only man to score in three World Cups, three Copa Americas and two Confederations Cups (to say nothing of three Gold Cups).
If you are not familiar with the legendary Mexico netminder, we'll do a solid and help you get acquainted. Campos played his position with the utmost skill and flamboyancy (not just because of his wildly colorful jerseys). And when his team needed a goal, he handed the gloves over to another 'keeper and moved effectively up to striker (no really, the guy bagged 47 goals).
Campos won club championships with Pumas, Cruz Azul and the Chicago Fire, while also competing with the LA Galaxy. Along the way to logging 130 El Tri caps, Campos beat Brazil in two finals. Simply put, he's one of the greatest and most interesting goalkeepers in soccer history.
The longtime face of American soccer – both north and south of the border – completed his requirements for this list with an eight-game Club Leon stint in 2018. Of course, Donovan is best known globally for a record-breaking USMNT career that featured some major World Cup highlights and four Gold Cup triumphs.
If any young soccer fan in your life needs to learn about his exploits at home, just tell them that no player has raised more MLS Cups or earned more Best XI nods than the former LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes legend. Further, the league's MVP trophy is now named after him.
The lone active player listed edged out my last spot. Chicharito became eligible here when he joined the LA Galaxy last season, and he's begun living up to his box fox rep in 2021. He's Mexico's all-time leading scorer and has hit in three straight World Cups.
Though Hernandez had one monster campaign with hometown side Chivas Guadalajara, most of his club glory days came in Europe (including a couple of Premier League crowns, a Bundesliga Golden Boot and a Europa League title).
With his flowing long hair contained by a skinny headband and chiseled jawline, El Matador cut quite the dashing figure in attack. Looking very much like a character that fell out of an adventure movie, Hernandez authored a lot of firsts with great panache.
His play led Necaxa to their first two Mexican crowns. He's still the only player from outside Conmebol to claim a Copa America Golden Boot outright. The former LA Galaxy ace also remains the only Mexico player to score four goals in a single World Cup.
One of two players on the list that hails from neither the Unites States nor Mexico, El Piojo ironically won the only two league titles of his career with the Colorado Rapids and Club America. A classy forward who loved to raid from the left channel, Lopez starred for both Valencia and Lazio during his eight seasons in Europe.
Lopez's Argentina career was surprisingly short, but he managed an Olympics silver medal and two World Cups before calling time on his international career at age 29.
Though his two years and change as a New York Red Bull were fairly disappointing, Marquez did more than enough elsewhere to earn his place here. He could marshal the backline or he could front it with equal aplomb, playing each role with loads of skill and a bit of madness bubbling under (and sometimes over) the surface.
Among his many trophies won, Marquez can count two Champions Leagues, five La Ligas, a Club World Cup, a Ligue 1 and a pair from Liga MX. He also rang up 147 Mexico caps and became the first man to captain his national team at five World Cups in the last match of his playing career.
Trying to come up with the most accomplished MLS export might well result in a lengthy argument. No such drama would surround naming the Liga MX counterpart.
Largely fueled by an obscene 193 goals in 258 Real Madrid games, Sanchez remains fourth in La Liga's all-time scoring chart. Sanchez won five league titles and a UEFA Cup championship with the Galacticos. Add in a special Liga MX run with Pumas, a fun season with Dallas at age 38 and plenty of El Tri heroics, and it's easy to see why he's generally seen as the best player to ever come out of Concacaf.
A dominant center back despite standing just 5-foot-10 (wink wink), the El Tri legend was known as “The Emperor” for very good reason. Suarez played at least 150 total matches for three of Mexico's biggest clubs before nearly captaining Chivas USA to a Supporters Shield at 38.
His 178 international caps put him seventh on the all-time FIFA list. Suarez was a key figure on three Gold Cup-winning teams and the 1999 Confederations Cup champs, then provided money in the bank whenever Mexico found themselves in a penalty shootout (unlike several of his teammates).