Liga MX is better than Major League Soccer right now - Don Garber
Commissioner Don Garber said that Major League Soccer is still intent on becoming one of the best leagues in the world, but he acknowledged it still has a ways to go to catch up to Mexican counterpart Liga MX.
MLS has grown to 20 teams, with four more set to come on board in the next two or three years. The league's attendance has continued to grow, reaching a record 21,558 fans per game in 2015.
But in many respects MLS still lags behind Liga MX, with Mexican teams continuing to dominate the CONCACAF Champions League. For the sixth time in the last eight editions, the CCL final was an all-Liga MX affair.
"I think it starts with the Mexican league is better than our league now, and we have to acknowledge that and that's OK," Garber said. "You always have to have someone within your sights in business and life and sport as your target to say they are the ones that we want to get [to].
"There are lot of things in Liga MX that we admire. They spend more money, better training, they have been at it a longer period of time, better development."
But Garber added that given the way the competition is scheduled, the playing field was not exactly level, and that this needs to change.
"Excuses are terrible in the sports business but when we are playing in February before our teams are together against a Club America when they are at their peak that is not good for the competition," Garber said.
"I am a big proponent of changing that and then if when we are at a level playing ground and they still beat us then we need to take a step back and say, 'what do we need to do to get even better?'"
When asked if his league was under threat from Liga MX, the commissioner said that everyone is under threat from somewhere. "Frankly, I think there are more threats to MLS than there are to Liga MX," he added.
While Garber lauded Liga MX's structure, he did add that there was room for the Mexican league to grow as well.
"I think [Liga MX] needs to be a more international brand," he said. "Part of what makes it so strong is the insular quality, but [there's] not enough international appeal. If they had that they could drive more revenue but I think that is a weakness [Liga MX director general] Enrique [Bonilla] will fix immediately."
Garber added that MLS has been in talks with Liga MX about a club competition involving teams between the two leagues, but that the logistical hurdles remained immense.
"They are in Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, your cup competition here," said Garber. "If we could ever figure that out I think it would be enormously valuable for Mexican-American relations to try to be a power regionally for the sport of soccer around the world. We have a lot of work to do. I think at some point it happens, I really do."
In the meantime, Garber said MLS would continue to try and attract more Mexico national team stars like the LA Galaxy's Giovani Dos Santos.
"I think both leagues are looking to have as many connections to each other's country [as possible]," said Garber. "But we do need more Mexican players because it shows our country -- both the Anglo market and the Hispanic market -- that our league is on the rise and that we can attract Italian players and Spanish players and Mexican players like [Dos Santos].
"And that is something the NFL can't offer and MLB can't really offer in the same global way and certainly hockey can't offer."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.