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 By Tom Marshall

MLS, Liga MX to play in Campeones Cup as part of new partnership

MLS commissioner Don Garber and Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla speak of their hopes of bringing unity to the two leagues as they announce the Campeones Cup.

Major League Soccer and Liga MX have announced a strategic partnership to work together to enhance the North American leagues' standing in world soccer, with Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla describing it as a "win-win" for both leagues.

The partnership includes the start of an annual Campeones Cup, a battle between the champions of each league, with the inaugural edition to be played on Sept. 19 this year in Toronto.

The game will feature reigning MLS champion Toronto FC and the winner of Liga MX's Campeon de Campeones tournament in July. The Campeon de Campeones will pit Tigres, the victor of the Liga MX 2017 Apertura, against the champion of the ongoing 2018 Clausura.

"It's almost like a continental Super Bowl," MLS commissioner Don Garber said of the Campeones Cup in an interview with ESPN FC.

"It's an opportunity for their champion to play our champion in a way that can really create enormous interest and attention for both leagues."

Toronto FC capped a treble season with an MLS Cup trophy after beating Seattle 2-0.
Toronto FC will represent MLS in the inaugural Campeones Cup.

"It's a win-win relationship," Bonilla said in the same interview. "We're both going to grow and get stronger and stronger and have the chance to compete with other continents, not just within CONCACAF."

MLS and Liga MX -- the two biggest leagues in North America -- have also committed to an All-Star game, though Bonilla said the announcement of when the match would take place will have to wait, hinting it is unlikely to be this year. MLS hosts an annual All-Star game, but putting together an All-Star team will be a first for Liga MX.

The long-rumored cup competition between Liga MX and MLS clubs is not part of the initial announcement, with Bonilla suggesting that there are other ideas being discussed.

"There are lot of plans on the table that we are working together on, but we have to go step-by-step and walk firmly before we start running" he said.

The alliance will also feature collaboration on business practices and social responsibility in what appears to be the first step in what both hope to be a long-term relationship between the two leagues.

Campeones Cup logo
The Campeones Cup logo was revealed as part of Tuesday's launch.

"Our goal is to be working with Mexico to have our part of the world attract the attention of the rest of the football-playing world," Garber said. "It shouldn't just be about Europe or South America, it should be about North America, also."

Added Bonilla: "In this global world we have to work together if we want to succeed, if we want to get better and that's what we are doing with this announcement. We recognize that each of us has different strengths and we have to put them together so we can grow and so we can have better football so we can compete with the rest of the world."

Also as part of the partnership, Liga MX under-20 teams will participate during MLS All-Star Week as the annual opponent in the MLS Homegrown Game.

The announcement comes at the start of an important week for the rivalry between MLS and Liga MX in the CONCACAF Champions League, with three MLS clubs taking leads into the quarterfinal second legs of the competition.

Ahead of his side's second leg against Toronto FC on Tuesday night, Tigres coach Ricardo Ferretti said the Mexican league is no longer the clear "giant" in the region.

"I don't think [there's much difference]," he said. "I respect everyone's opinion, but, if we look at the stats, I don't think that Mexico is still the giant. If that's what they want to show, I think they are very wrong."

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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