LOS ANGELES — The burgeoning relationship between Major League Soccer and Liga MX – the top soccer league in Mexico – has taken another big step.
Executives of the two leagues — MLS commissioner Don Garber and Liga MX executive president Enrique Bonilla — formally announced Wednesday at Banc of California Stadium that the 2020 MLS All-Star Game will be played at the home stadium of Los Angeles FC and will feature star players from both leagues pitted against each other for the first time. The game will be played on July 29.
Los Angeles is a logical choice to host the first of these All-Star Games given the prominent population in the area of people of Mexican heritage. The first major player signing for LAFC, which joined MLS as an expansion team in 2018, was Carlos Vela, a star player from the Mexico national soccer team. In 2019, Vela set MLS’s single-season goals scored record as LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield.
The MLS-vs.-Liga MX All-Star Game approach is a welcome change of pace for the MLS event. In 2005, the league scrapped the more traditional conference-vs.-conference All-Star Game used by other U.S. pro sports leagues and instead hosted matches against top club teams from Europe.
“As we have been coming up with different competition formats for our All-Star game, one thing has remained constant, we want to have the most competitive All-Star Game format in all of major league sports,” Garber said. “While it is an exhibition, ultimately, the teams that we play – the MLS All-Stars play – come to win.
“Whether it’s Bayern Munich, or whether it’s Real Madrid, or FC Barcelona, or Manchester United, or now the Liga MX All-Stars, both teams are going to come here to not only put on a great show for their fans, but also to take home some hardware. That will be an important part in the build-up to this game.”
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In 2019, MLS all-stars squared off against Spanish powerhouse Atletico Madrid in Orlando, losing 3-0. MLS All-Stars also played the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur of the Premier League; Real Madrid of La Liga and Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga. However, the concept had run its course.
Already in contention between the two leagues are the Leagues Cup (Cruz Azul of Liga MX won the inaugural tournament in September) and the Campeones Cup (which was won in 2019 by Atlanta United of MLS). Now, the MLS-Liga MX All-Star Game sets up a potential bragging rights tiebreaker scenario.
“We are strengthening this relationship (with MLS) that will help us increase the level of football in North America with a view to the 2026 World Cup,” Bonilla said. “Seeing the Liga MX All-Stars play in this game will be very exciting. I know this is something the fans have been waiting for a long time.”
Bonilla indicated a fan vote would be a part of the All-Star selection process for the Liga MX team. MLS incorporates a fan vote, manager selections and commissioner picks in constructing its All-Star roster.
The two leagues also compete in the CONCACAF Champions League, which is similar to the UEFA Champions League, pitting top teams from leagues throughout North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.