Major League Soccer has been forced to call off three major tentpole events involving Liga MX clubs this year as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
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 canceled. It is the first time in MLS’s 25-year history that the All-Star Game will not take place.
The decisions were taken 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 crisis. Liga MX also remains indefinitely suspended.
MLS is reportedly planning a mini-tournament in June-July featuring all 26 teams at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. According to ESPN, this will include a five-game group stage followed by a knockout phase, with potentially a place in the Concacaf Champions League for the winner. There will also be “consolation games” for teams to who do not make the knockout stage to make sure all teams play the same number of matches.
This year’s MLS All-Star Game was due to feature a match-up between the best players in MLS and Liga MX for the first time. It was scheduled to be held at LAFC’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 fanbase.
Meanwhile, the third Campeones Cup between the MLS and Liga MX champions was also canceled, along with the second edition of the Leagues Cup between teams from the two leagues. The mid-season Leagues Cup had been expanded from eight to 16 teams this year.
Both tournaments are expected to return in 2021, according to a press release.
All three events have been designed to deepen ties between MLS and Liga MX. The United States, Mexico, and Canada will jointly host the Fifa World Cup in 2026, while there is even the long-term potential of a joint MLS-Liga MX league.
Elsewhere, the Washington Post reports that the National Women’s Soccer League is planning to stage a mini-tournament in Utah this summer, which could be a precursor to a 2020 regular season.
It is likely to take place from late June until late July at Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of MLS’s Real Salt Lake and the NWSL’s Utah Royals, or Zions Bank Stadium, 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 spectators. An official announcement is expected this week.