MLS beats Liga MX, but All-Star Game will soon be upstaged by revamped Leagues Cup

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — On any given Wednesday night, you’ll no doubt find countless golden boot winners and superstar forwards patrolling central midfield around the world — you just need to find the right FIFA lobbies. Outside of PlayStation and Xbox, any manager who lets his No.9 carry water in the team’s engine room would have all sorts of questions to answer after the game. Unless that coach manages the MLS All-Stars.

Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath placed Austin FC forward Sebastian Driussi (who has scored 16 goals in 24 regular-season games, two more than his closest rival) on the left side of a midfield three in a 2-1 win Liga MX All-Stars on .

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“I was joking about it today; I had to try about seven or eight No. 10s to get in shape,” Heath said after playing the challenge of fielding a team with so much attacking talent.

The other No 8 in midfield flanking Darlington Nagbe? Emanuel Reynoso, one of the league’s top playmakers who also set the standards for the MLS team. Why was the #10 loon chosen ahead of others in such an immensely talented team? “Because I’m in charge,” Heath joked. “I could tell who would take what.” And that captures the essence of the All-Star game. This is fantasy football brought to life.

None of the announced 19,727 attendees at Minnesota’s pretty home of Allianz Field will feel offended. That was as intense as an exhibition can be. After the hosts took a 2-0 lead with a Carlos Vela header and a Raul Ruidiaz penalty. Kevin Alvarez’s goal in the 84th minute halved the deficit to get the huge crowd of Mexican fans on their feet and filling the ground with equal parts fear and enthusiasm for the final moments of the game. It was a win on the pitch for the MLS, but the night as a whole was a win for both leagues.

As Liga MX and Major League Soccer grow closer together, this marked the second All-Star Game that saw the leagues go head-to-head, while next season’s reinvented Leagues Cup will see both leagues pause their domestic seasons , meaning all of their 47 clubs can compete in the month-long tournament in group stage and knockout format – the novelty and necessity of this all-star format already seems to be fading.

Of the top five scorers in Mexico’s Clausura tournament that ended in May, only one was in the Liga MX squad: Germany’s Berterame from Monterrey. None from the current Apertura tournament were included. Their regular season resumes barely 24 hours after Minnesota’s full-time whistle. It is therefore difficult to believe that this was the best that Liga MX has to offer.

One of the words Heath repeated during his post-win press conference was “competitive”. That his players were competitive. That their opponents were competitive. That the game was competitive. And that was it – as much as an exhibition can be.

The rivalry between Mexico and the United States men’s national team carries real weight in this part of the world and it’s clear that both the MLS and Liga MX are looking to capture that lively, intense spirit but All-Star games are lacking it inherently at this department. There is no bite and there is not much bark either.

There will be plenty of that at next summer’s Leagues Cup, when we can enjoy a World Cup-style tournament format played exclusively by teams from those leagues. Undoubtedly more so if Mexican clubs demonstrate that the Seattle Sounders’ CONCACAF Champions League triumph – the first by an MLS club in its current format and the first continental title by an MLS club since 2000 – was a godsend, and the Mexico is truly home to the best clubs in the region. But on Wednesday there were none.

This is the beginning of a hugely fruitful partnership between MLS and Liga MX and it’s exciting for the leagues, the players and the fans. But four years since this tandem unveiled their intentions to tag world football, launch the Campeones Cup and set them on course for All-Stars and Leagues Cups, they are already flirting with market saturation.



The MLS All-Stars win the Crossbar Challenge and secure victory over Liga MX in the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge.

And yet there was a lot of fuss at Allianz Field about a fifth competition between these two: the Skills Challenge. It was fun. It was different. That’s something MLS should embrace as a league.

This summer, MLS clubs welcomed European powerhouses – the sort of teams that have faced off against the league’s all-star teams in previous years – and have been competitive on several occasions. Exactly three weeks ago, Minnesota beat Frank Lampard’s Everton 4-0 here in St. Paul.

With these increasingly frequent July dates packed with international opponents and Seattle’s newly planted continental crown, the appetite for MLS vs. the World competitions might be considered somewhat satiated.

But people always want more goalie wars. MLS beats Liga MX, but All-Star Game will soon be upstaged by revamped Leagues Cup

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