PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Forward Daniela Solis is the personification of a growing connection between U.S. soccer and Mexico that will only intensify as the 2026 World Cup approaches.
Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game against their Liga MX counterparts, an expanded League Cup competition next year and a series of women’s exhibition games this summer all aim to overcome the border
For MLS, that means tapping into Liga MX’s huge fan base in the United States. For women, it’s about growing the game in general.
Solis is a native of Mexico, but was a high school star in Oregon and played soccer at Portland State before transferring to Monterrey Tech, one of Mexico’s top women’s college teams.
“I had always dreamed of playing professional soccer, but when I was in college, there was no professional soccer in Mexico,” Solís said. “So I basically just went there without knowing it and a couple of years later the league was born and I was there.”
Now with CF Monterrey of Liga MX Femenil, Solis is currently in the United States for the Women’s International Challenge Cup at Portland’s Providence Park. Las Rayadas, as the team is known, will play against French powerhouse Lyon on Saturday for the tournament title
The Tigres UANL women recently played an exhibition in Angel City of the National Women’s Soccer League, part of an agreement between the teams to share best practices and community outreach strategies. Angel City will play Tigres in Mexico next year.
“As a Mexican-American, this partnership is very important to me and the women’s game because it challenges the ‘boundaries’ of this sport and crosses borders,” said Tigers winger Anika Rodriguez. “Football is universal and knows no boundaries. This partnership is just one step closer to that ideal.”
One of the Tigres’ top stars is Mia Fishel, who played at UCLA and skipped the NWSL to play in Mexico.
Another Women’s Liga MX team, Club America, is currently in Kentucky for the Women’s Cup and will play AC Milan in the tournament’s third-place match on Saturday.
LA Galaxy star Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez is embracing the cross-border collaboration between MLS and Liga MX. There will undoubtedly be more eyes on both leagues ahead of the 2026 World Cup, hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“I want to have the narrative that Liga MX has so many things to praise, just like MLS, and then these kinds of events will help us move forward,” said the forward, who has played in both leagues.
It’s beneficial for MLS to take advantage of the draws: Liga MX games on Spanish-language television in the United States draw more viewers than televised MLS games on average, and last year’s All-Star Game have better combined ratings (both in Spanish and English broadcasts). ) than the MLS Cup final.
There are more shared events in the future. MLS Cup champion NYCFC will host reigning Liga MX champion Atlas next month in the 2022 Champions Cup.
Next year, MLS and Liga MX will compete in an expanded League Cup tournament. It will be the first to include all 47 clubs in MLS and Liga MX. The winner will advance directly to the round of 16 of the CONCACAF Champions League.
A recent presentation of the League Cup at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium drew 71,000 fans with games between the Galaxy and Chivas, and LAFC and Club America.
While MLS commissioner Don Garber suggested next year’s All-Star Game may not include their Liga MX counterparts, he said the 2023 League Cup will elevate the alliance between both leagues.
“We have made a strategic and very focused partnership with Liga MX, trying to make CONCACAF one of the dominant confederations in the world, not just in our region,” he said in a televised interview at halftime of the All- Star Game. .
NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said her league is looking for expanded international partnerships.
“We’re definitely excited and we’ve had some preliminary conversations, at least on a business and league level since I’ve been here,” he said. “We’re excited to explore that given the connectivity and our geographic proximity.”
For Solís, football is a good way to bring his two homes together.
“I think the Mexican league is supporting their (women’s) teams, and I’m very happy that the NWSL is opening the doors for teams from the Mexican league to come and play friendlies in the US,” she said. “It’s good for everyone.”
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