Liga MX defeats to Major League Soccer clubs a sign of things to come?
The CONCACAF Champions League normally brings an air of Liga MX dominance over Major League Soccer competition once things reach the quarterfinal stage. Yet this week saw Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls triumph over Mexican opposition to cause a little panic.
Is there cause for concern in Liga MX or are this week's results simply a blip on the continent? ESPN FC's Liga MX writers assess the results and what they mean.
Toronto FC a game changer
Yes and no. Competition from abroad is what Liga MX needs, especially now the new Copa Libertadores format makes it virtually impossible for Mexican teams to re-enter the tournament.
Liga MX needs an outlet, a rivalry, something of interest outside domestic tournaments and frankly the CCL has been unable to provide it due to lack of competition.
There have been many false dawns when it comes to MLS "closing the gap." This time, however, it does feel different and the chief reason is Toronto FC.
If you look through the three series, everybody should be cautious about making sweeping statements.
New York Red Bulls defeated Club Tijuana 5-1 on aggregate, but received a large slice of luck in the first leg against Club Tijuana, with at least three big refereeing decisions not going for the Liga MX side. Injuries to Gustavo Bou and Juan Manuel Iturbe, amongst others, also changed the dynamic of the series. To be fair to the Red Bulls, they scored three classy goals at home after conceding early in the second leg, but they easily could have been down 3-1 before a ball was kicked in New Jersey.
And then in Chivas' win over Seattle Sounders appeared highly convincing, but the MLS team was a shell of its true self given injuries to Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris and then first half injuries to Will Bruin and Chad Marshall.
It was Toronto that stood out against Tigres. It presented the most representative portrayal of where the best two teams in MLS and Liga MX are at and it was a tight and fascinating affair, ending in a tie that saw TFC went through on away goals. It left the impression that Toronto could compete in Liga MX and do so successfully.
Toronto is providing the blueprint of how to compete with Liga MX's very best under a salary cap. It's no secret targeted allocation money in MLS, which allows teams to improve talent in their fourth, fifth and six roster spots, has been important in this.
But where Liga MX should be concerned is regarding everything else going on in MLS -- stadiums, value of franchises, outreach, general organization and more global vision.
It'd be a stretch, given the recent history, to suggest that MLS will catch Liga MX in the next five years, but if you look 20 years down the line, the indicators point to MLS surpassing Liga MX both on and off the field. -- Tom Marshall
MLS was bound to catch up
Yes. Although it's possible that worries will be pushed aside if we end up with a Club America vs. Chivas final, the disarray that MLS teams created in the quarterfinal stage was inevitable.
Regardless of the team that eventually lifts the CCL title, the gap is closing between MLS and the Liga MX. Recently, MLS has been distancing itself from the "retirement league" stereotype and is now quickly becoming a home for plenty of intriguing Latin American talent. Rosters aren't as top-heavy as they used to be and as opposed to just 2-3 stars carrying a team, there is now an investment in more depth that will continue to help MLS clubs compete with their neighbors south of the border.
Yet Liga MX is still leading the race. On paper, top Mexican squads such as Tigres, Monterrey and Club America continue to be on a different level than many of their MLS peers. However, that also doesn't mean that they shouldn't worry. What happened in the quarterfinal stage is a sign of more serious competition from MLS clubs. In the semifinals, it's still up in the air whether Chivas or Club America will be able to find a way into the final.
Liga MX is still king in North America, but MLS isn't far behind. -- Cesar Hernandez
Liga MX shouldn't worry yet
Mexican teams should be worried as far as not having the opportunity to play in the FIFA Club World Cup, and at failing to add trophies -- just like any other team would be this deep into the tournament. Should they be worried about losing regional supremacy to MLS teams? Not really. At least not yet.
With all due respect, it doesn't create that much of a ripple in the water when teams like Club Tijuana and Tigres drop out of the competition as opposed to Chivas and Club America. For most fans and media, having one of those two teams (or both) bow out in the semis to MLS opponents would signal a seismic shift in the order of things. But not when Xolos, a team in flux after (another) coaching change and roster overhaul, loses. Even Tigres, with all their domestic success, are quiet in international play and have yet to win anything outside of Mexico under Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti.
There's literally no long-term or even short-term trend indicating a reversal of dominance -- at least not yet. Mexico's canary in the coal mine moment at the national team level wasn't losing 2-0 to the U.S. in the 2002 World Cup. Heck, it wasn't even a singular event. It came with El Tri losing to the Americans in the 1991 Gold Cup, the 1995 Copa America and the first dos-a-cero in Columbus in 2001.
If Toronto or New York end up hoisting the CCL trophy, it can only be viewed as a watershed moment if it signals alternating dominance in the coming years. If it's just a smudge on Liga MX's monopoly, or if we get a Club America vs. Chivas final this year, we'll all feel a little silly that we devoted perhaps a bit too much time and energy into this argument. -- Eric Gomez