“Liga MX and MLS unite more every day.”
That was the phrase used by ESPN pundit Herculez Gomez on Saturday, in response to widespread reports that Inter Miami CF would hire former Monterrey and Pachuca manager Diego Alonso as their inaugural head coach, which went official on Monday.
Alonso is the latest to make this sort of move across the border, following the likes of Matias Almeyda (Chivas, San Jose Earthquakes), Tata Martino (Atlanta United, Mexico national team) and a litany of players in both directions. And just a few weeks ago it was announced that the 2020 MLS All-Star Game in Los Angeles will feature a matching selection of Liga MX’s best as opponents.
This interchange is increasing in large part because MLS is opening up its purse strings to an unprecedented extent. The growth in spending on high-caliber players via allocation money and the Designated Player rule has been well documented, and more recently clubs are recognizing – and investing in – the value of elite managerial nous once seen as prohibitively expensive.
But there’s more at work here. MLS and Liga MX are becoming BFFs because both have things that the other wants.
MLS still needs all the top-shelf talent it can get its hands on, and inroads to connect with the Latinx communities who passionately consume soccer on TV and in the stands, none more voraciously than Liga MX. Conversely, Liga MX values the marketing and promotion that MLS and SUM have built such expertise in, and wants to ramp up its access to the lucrative markets of the United States and Canada, where it’s already drawn big audiences with relatively little concerted effort.
If anyone is qualified to opine on this trend, it’s Herc, who played in both leagues and has reported in detail about their growing ties, epitomized by the new Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup competitions launched over the past two years. In many ways, he was a pioneering figure in this evolutionary process, and his personal backstory — bilingual, dual-national, born and raised in the United States, but considered a Mexican expatriate by many cultural and procedural standards in that country — mirrors a rapidly-growing demographic that businesses on both sides of the Rio Grande are hungry to connect with.
Gomez returned to his hometown of Las Vegas over the summer to cover the unveiling of Leagues Cup. He later told me he was surprised at how openly and bullishly Don Garber and Enrique Bonilla spoke about their desire to grow even closer in the years ahead, perhaps going as far as to merge into one massive, cross-border competition that would turn heads around the world.
The clip in this tweet is one of several he shared. I urge you to click through and read/watch the entire thread:
Could this prove a signal to MLS and Liga MX that their mutually-beneficial relationship can blossom even further? It might just be one of the biggest off-field storylines of 2020.