MLS holds off major tentpole events

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MLS canceled competitions May 2020 Image: MLS

Global COVID-19 outbreak has forced Major League Soccer (MLS) to cancel three major tentpole events involving Liga MX clubs this year.

The All-Star Game between MLS and Liga MX players as well as planned interleague competitions, the Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup, have all been called off. It is the first time in MLS’s 25-year history that the All-Star Game will not be held.

The aforementioned decision was arrived at in order to provide as many available dates as possible for the remainder of the MLS season, which has been suspended since March 12 due to the coronavirus bane. Liga MX also remains indefinitely suspended.

Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States and Canada.

The Major League Soccer All-Star Game is an annual soccer game held by MLS featuring selected players from the league against an international club. The Leagues Cup is an annual association football competition between clubs from MLS and Liga MX in North America. It debuted in July 2019 with four teams participating from each league.

The Liga MX is the top professional football division of the Mexican football league system. Administered by the Mexican Football Federation, the league comprises 18 clubs, with one being relegated every year based upon its league performances over the previous three years. The Campeones Cup is an annual North American soccer match contested between the winners of the previous MLS season and the winners of the Campeón de Campeones from Liga MX. The competition was established by the two leagues in 2018.

MLS is reportedly planning a mini-tournament in June-July featuring all 26 teams at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Orlando in US. As per ESPN, it will include a five-game group stage followed by a knockout phase, with potentially a place in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Champions League for the winner. There will also be “consolation games” for teams to who do not make it to the knockout stage to make sure all teams play the same number of matches.

CONCACAF is one of FIFA’s six continental governing bodies for association football.

The pick of MLS players was supposed to take part in this year’s MLS All-Star Game and Liga MX for the first time. It was scheduled to be held at Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium on July 29. The showpiece event is expected to retain the same format and be played at the same venue in 2021.

It had been hoped that Mexican opposition would revive interest in the All-Star Game, which in 2019 gained a TV audience of just 182,000 viewers on the English-language broadcast on cable network FS1. However, the simultaneous viewing audience of 626,000 on the Spanish-language UniMas and TUDN showed the benefits of appealing to a Hispanic and Latino fan base.

Meanwhile, the third Campeones Cup between the MLS and Liga MX champions also stands canceled, along with the second edition of the Leagues Cup between teams from the two leagues. The mid-season Leagues Cup had been increased from eight to 16 teams this year.

A press release sent out stated that both tournaments are expected to return in 2021.

All three events have been designed to strengthen ties between MLS and Liga MX. The United States, Mexico, and Canada will jointly host the FIFA World Cup™ in 2026, while there lies even the long-term potential of a joint MLS-Liga MX league.

Media reports stated that the National Women’s Soccer League is planning to stage a mini-tournament in Utah (United States) this summer, which could be a kind of precursor to a 2020 regular season.

It is likely to take place from late June until late July at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah (US), the home of MLS’s Real Salt Lake and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL’s) Utah Royals, or Zions Bank Stadium in Utah (US), which is operated by Real Salt Lake and is home to the United Soccer League’s Real Monarchs.

There would be a group format followed by a knockout competition, with strict health and safety precautions in place, including no fans.

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