ATLANTA – Before I get into this, I want to make one thing clear: Despite some annual debate about the format, the MLS All-Star Game is healthy, growing and remains a fun, entertaining showcase for the league. The record crowd of 72,317 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the MLS squad's 1-1 draw with Juventus on Wednesday is the only proof of that anyone should need.
All-Star is in a good place, but a south-of-the-border-style refresh on the MLS vs. Big European Team matchups we’ve seen for the last decade could take things up a notch. An ASG between the best in MLS and the brightest stars in Liga MX would be a hell of a spectacle for quite a few reasons, and, according to Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla, we might just see one in the near future.
Bonilla, who was MLS commissioner Don Garber’s guest on Wednesday, told reporters prior to the game that he thinks an MLS vs. Liga MX All-Star Game is an attractive option for Liga MX and that we could see one “very soon.” There is some recent history of the leagues coming together to organize a big match; MLS and Liga MX teamed up this winter to put together the first Copa Campeones, which will see 2017 MLS Cup champions Toronto FC take on 2017 Liga MX Apertura winners Tigres in September at BMO Field.
“It would be incredible, it would be incredible,” Mexico national team and LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos when asked about the prospect of an MLS vs. Liga MX All-Star Game. “The fact that soccer in the United States is growing and it’s like a religion in Mexico, I think, despite the rivalry between the two countries, I think there’s a lot of love and desire to compete between us.”
“It would be spectacular,” added Minnesota United attacker Darwin Quintero, who spent nine years in Liga MX with Santos Laguna and Club América before moving to the Loons in March. “It would have a lot of potential – in the players, in the rivalry, I think it’d be very good.”
A matchup between the biggest stars on both sides of the Rio Grande would bring a new twist to the All-Star Game. It’d build on the intensifying rivalry playing out between the MLS and Liga MX in Concacaf Champions League, would draw a new set of fans toward one of the league’s cornerstone events and, as several All-Stars noted on Wednesday, would almost certainly add a little fire on the field.
“That would be really fun, I think,” said FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges, who has come up against Liga MX teams several times in CCL play. “That would be a little bit more intense than these games are, just because the two leagues, the rivalry, but that would be really cool.”
Hedges is right. Imagine an All-Star Game where Sebastian Giovinco rekindles his CCL battle with Tigres’ Andre-Pierre Gignac, where LAFC’s Carlos Vela duels with Mexico teammate Rodolfo Pizarro or where Quintero squares off with his former Santos and América running mate Oribe Peralta. Now imagine it in L.A., Texas or Atlanta. The atmosphere would be electric, the attention would be intoxicating, the stakes as high as they could get for a friendly.
The All-Star Game doesn’t need a boost, but I wouldn’t mind a little more of a good thing. Let’s make an MLS vs. Liga MX ASG happen.
“The Mexican league is a very good level – we could bring a fantastic game,” said Vela. “I think it always is good to create something new for the fans and try to innovate with a good thing, so if this happen it can be really fun.”