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Thursday September 20th, 2018 1:16PM

Major League Soccer forms partnership with Mexico's Liga MX

By The Associated Press
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Major League Soccer and Liga MX have joined in a long-term partnership that will launch later this year when reigning MLS Cup champion Toronto hosts the champion from Mexico's top league.

The match, dubbed the Campeones Cup, is set for Sept. 19 at BMO Field. The Liga MX opponent will be the winner of July's Campeon de Campeones match between the Apertura champion Tigres UANL and the Clausura champion determined in May.

The partnership announced Tuesday will go beyond that annual game to include youth competitions, future All-Star games and other events and initiatives.

"We and Liga MX have an opportunity to do something that's really unprecedented in North America," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "We can work together across borders to create something unique and special that soccer fans both in Mexico and the United States and Canada can benefit from."

There's even the possibility of some kind of interleague play in the future, although it's still being discussed.

Previously, the two leagues came together for the North American SuperLiga, a tournament which started in 2007 and ran through 2010. It was sanctioned by the North and Central American and Caribbean confederation. But it fizzled out as attention went to the CONCACAF Champions League.

In recent years there had been increasing talk of reviving a similar competition. Ever-improving play in MLS has helped spur the speculation.

"We realize that the world is getting global and there are no longer borders in football," Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla said. "So we started talking about doing something together and being more competitive in football, not just on the pitch."

The partnership comes as the United States, Canada and Mexico bid to host the 2026 World Cup. Morocco is the only other nation vying for the event that year. A vote will be held on the competing proposals in June at the FIFA congress in Moscow.

"We're showing the world that we can do things together, not only a World Cup," Bonilla said. "If we can work together as leagues, then definitely we can work together to have the best World Cup ever."

In the United States, MLS competes with Liga MX for television viewers. Garber and Bonilla hope the collaboration brings new fans to both sides.

"It's for the good of the game. We have to do the best that we can so that our fans can see the best football in the world. We have to take it one step at a time and this is the first step," Bonilla said.

The announcement coincided with key matches in the quarterfinals of the Champions League between Liga MX and MLS opponents. The Red Bulls play Club Tijuana and Toronto FC plays Tigres UANL on Tuesday night, while the Sounders visit Chivas de Guadalajara on Wednesday.

The partnership also comes at a time of political tension between the United States and Mexico, spurred by new U.S. immigration policies, President Donald Trump's calls for a border wall and trade negotiations over NAFTA.

"This idea that soccer can be a unifier of different cultures, particularly close neighbors, is such a powerful position for us collectively to be in," Garber said. "And while we are agnostic to the politics because we're trying to run our respective leagues, if we can do some things that bring people together, then that's a powerful position to be in and we're happy to be in that position."

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports
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