LOS ANGELES: Major League Soccer and Liga MX both realize they are more powerful as partners than rivals.

While many of their best players face off against each other in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday night in the MLS All-Star Game, North America’s top two leagues are also friends and business partners. They could soon become full teammates if the continent’s football powers find a way to do it.

This All-Star Week is another step in the long process of aligning Mexico’s top professional teams with their American and Canadian counterparts to present a united and lucrative continental front to the world of football. The partnership already includes two cup competitions, and the leaders of the two leagues have recognized that it could eventually lead to a full merger.

Players representing these teams at Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium are more interested in delivering a memorable game to fans of this vibrant, football-loving American city where nearly half of the population is Latino, many with proud roots. Mexican.

As players, you want to be a part of history, said Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, a suburban Los Angeles native and MLS All-Stars captain. It’s something we all cherish. It’s really a big event for that reason.

The cross-border nature of this event was personified by Mexico’s two biggest stars in MLS: LA Galaxys Javier Chicharito Hernndez and LAFC’s Carlos Vela, both of whom started as Chivas prospects and performed in Europe before moving to the United States. United to strengthen the fortunes of MLS.

But after the event was promoted for weeks with advertisements and billboards featuring their faces, the teams of the two star strikers announced on Monday that they would miss the All-Star Game with injuries.

The absence of Chicharito and Vela is a blow to Bob Bradley’s MLS team, but players from both leagues believe the quality of play in MLS has increased in recent years to a level close to Liga MX, which has traditionally been the strongest competitive league while struggling with more financial fragility.

There isn’t much of a difference between the leagues anymore, said Lucas Zelarayn of Columbus, who moved north from Tigres UANL before last season and immediately led the crew to the MLS Cup title. Both countries have grown a lot in recent years. … MLS has caught up.

Zelarayn is just one of many players who have changed leagues in recent years, and most of them echoed Zelarayn’s beliefs, even though Mexican teams are still largely dominant in tournaments.

The best teams in the leagues already face each other in the Campeones Cup and the Leagues Cup, providing two opportunities to assess the relative quality of the teams. They also meet regularly in CONCACAF’s biggest Champions League, which a Mexican team has won every year since 2005, though LAFC came close to knocking out the Tigers last season.

While a full merger is not imminent, rumors abound of more opportunities for the interleague team competition and this All-Star setup is yet another step forward. MLS has pitted their All-Stars against a well-known European club team every year since 2004.

While MLS yearns for massive La Liga MX crowds and exposure to the Mexican association’s largest fan base across Latin America, La Liga MX would financially benefit from the global broadcast rights and broadcast rights opportunities. increased exposure in wealthy North America. A likely clash was tackled last year by Liga MX when they suspended promotion and relegation for at least five years: MLS is a closed league, which increases the value of its franchises and justifies the expense of extraordinary expansion of MLS, among other benefits.

Liga MX games have long generated higher ratings in the United States than MLS games, and this intriguing clash between the stars could turn into big numbers on both sides of the Mexican border. Just ask teenage FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi, who grew up in Texas watching Liga MX, not MLS.

I’ve always watched (Liga MX) games with my dad, echoed Galaxy’s Julian Araujo, the US-born Mexico international. Growing up, I always watched (Club Amrica and El Tri goalkeeper) Memo Ochoa. It’s going to be crazy to see him on the pitch, for sure.

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