I wrote this just short of two years ago. Tell me where I’m wrong, apart from apparently losing the link to Taylor Twellman’s Tweet about Liga MX having a 99.9% chance of winning the CCL.
Nothing of relevance has changed on the MLS side. Tom Marshall at ESPNFC would like to inform us, on the other hand, that if anything Liga MX has improved.
From just over 130 foreigners registered for the 2015 Clausura, today there are over 200 foreigners in the 18-team league, with 10 non-homegrown (almost always foreign) players allowed in each matchday squad.
The highly paid mid-level Mexican (and naturalized Mexican) player has been squeezed out -- often to the second division -- as teams can simply buy in cheaper and often better foreigners, especially from South America. That helps explain why there was a total of 30 players from Liga MX called into CONMEBOL squads for World Cup qualifiers last month. To put that in perspective, at the 2006 World Cup there were only four Liga MX-based players involved for teams aside from Mexico.
The national team callup comparison is very helpful. This is what you get when you run an Internet search for “US soccer toaster”:
Not very helpful. Of course, if you search for US soccer ROSTER, like I meant to do in the first place, you will see that we’ve called in forty-one players for the past two rounds of World Cup qualifying. Twenty-three of those players were from MLS, or a little over 75%. (Kidding, just wanted to jolt you awake during the math portion.) Five, amusingly, were from Liga MX.
Meanwhile, El Tri called up thirty-six players for the same games. Twenty four play in Mexico, twelve play in Europe. (Giovani dos Santos was hurt. Yeah, that’s it.)
Major League Soccer has made a concerted effort to bring its more famous US national team members to the league, although they weren’t able to entice Carli Lloyd or Alex Morgan. But a larger chunk of the US pool remains abroad. As Marshall has shown us, Liga MX has done an even better job bringing its own stars home.
Mexico has a richer, stronger league in a country with a deeper talent pool. Of course their clubs are going to beat ours. And it wasn’t like Dallas was skinned alive, either. Was a time when these matches were over after the MLS home leg. Some Galaxy fans still shudder at the mention of Necaxa, and I had to look up just now to see if they were still in business. (They are – promoted back to Liga MX. Good going, guys.)
The only thing I feel I can usefully add to this is that Liga MX teams aren’t doing this because they care about the CONCACAF Champions League. They’re doing this (1) because they can (2) because they can afford it (3) so they can compete with each other. This is for the games that count, not so one of them can go to the United Arab Emirates and maybe hold Real Madrid to two goals.
MLS teams, by and large, aren’t quite as splashy with the cashy. They don’t draw as well, their TV deals aren’t as bountiful (there are Pentagon contracts that aren’t as lucrative as Televisa deals), and there aren’t really any big Americans left to bring home except Christian Pulisic and maybe Fabian Johnson. When MLS teams do spend on foreign players…well, one might be occasionally tempted to think they care more about whether said foreign player will sell jerseys than contribute to wins.
Simply buying dudes from faraway lands also puts us in competition with every big European league, as well as the Chinese League until that bubble bursts. I really like what Mexico is doing with its scouting of South American talent, and we should be doing the same. But we shouldn’t be trying to outbid Club America yet.
If for some weird reason MLS jobbing out every year to better teams keeps you up at night, well…we have two options.
The most effective would be a foreign and economic policy designed to flatten the Mexican gross domestic product, with the long-term aid of reducing Mexico to a subsistence agrarian society. The British Empire in the nineteenth century provides examples of how weaponized famine within its sphere of influence could….
No? You sure? Look, do you want to win or not?
Then the only way out is through, I’m afraid. Wait for the increased interest and investment in American soccer to bear fruit, and hope the larger talent pool has larger talent. That can be unreliable, cyclical, and downright maddening at times, as our friends in England and Holland could tell you. World class soccer players are obviously difficult to stumble across, and these days the United States can barely be depended on to produce quarterbacks and starting pitchers. But we’ll eventually have a large enough middle class to give the bell curve a healthy shove to the right, and hopefully mitigate Mexican clubs’ advantage in the middle to lower roster. I don’t think we can buy our way past that step, though.
Well, that’s it for this year’s CONCACAF lament. If anyone still has trouble understanding the process here, the Open Cup is starting up again soon. Ask why NASL teams don’t spend what it takes to win.