MIAMI – Major League Soccer is eagerly growing and deepening its partnership with Mexican soccer, but those awaiting an expansion into South America’s top club competitions will have to be patient.
That was the message from Commissioner Don Garber on Thursday as he appeared at the Soccerex convention at Marlins Park alongside Yon de Luisa, president of the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación (FMF), to present a session titled “USA & Mexico – United Through Soccer.”
“Mexico is still a big rival on the field, and their clubs are still rivals, massive rivals, with us on the field,” Garber told members of the media afterwards. “But our concept, and it’s one that’s different for the world of global sports and I think global soccer, is we want our business to be partnerships and then we want to be incredible competitors on the field. And that concept is what makes MLS what it is today.
“They might align to make decisions that are about driving collective value, but when Seattle was playing against Portland, they’re trying to kill each other. So we have the same approach with what we’re doing with Soccer United Marketing. We are rivals with the FMF, Mexican national team, and we’re rivals with Chivas, who beat Toronto [in the Concacaf Champions League final] to go to the World Club Championships – I mean, that was heartbreaking. But then when we get back, we try to think about what do we need to do together so that we can grow the value of this idea of raising the water level, if you will, of the sport for all through business partnerships.”
MLS and Liga MX have joined forces via Soccer United Marketing and this year debuted the Campeones Cup, a one-off annual match featuring the two leagues’ reigning champions, with Tigres UANL defeating Toronto FC in the inaugural edition in September.
Garber noted that the two leagues are exploring the possibility of that event growing into a tournament with multiple teams. He suggested that such a project would take precedence over entering MLS teams in Copa Libertadores, the storied CONMEBOL tournament that has included Mexican teams in the past and was recently reported to be inviting MLS participants in upcoming editions.
“I don’t see it happening,” said Garber when asked about MLS taking part in next year’s Copa Libs. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to continue to evolve our own schedule and it gets busier and busier and more and more crowded. And we have been really focused on trying to think of ways in which we could have some sort of a meaningful competition with Liga MX, and we’ve got a long way to go to figure out how that schedule will work.
“Our league is growing, we have more teams, and in time we’ll be able to have an opportunity to play in different competitions than just our league competition and our federation’s competition [U.S. Open Cup] and our confederation’s competition. But thinking about that being outside of our confederation, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”