The soccer news starts with USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and Mexico coach Tata Martino making an old point ahead of Friday night’s friendly at MetLife Stadium (8:30pm – FS1). Berhalter started by favoring Mexico in a comparison of the state of the two country’s soccer. Shocked looks, Martino agreed with Berhalter’s assessment. However much weight you want to put on words like “slightly” and “a little bit”, it’s nothing new for fans of both countries and both leagues.
“I think that as a general panorama, our players are competing in leagues that are better than the players in the United States national team,” Martino said. “I also think that the Mexican league is above MLS. Which means it’s very probable that he is right and that from his position he sees the Mexican national team as a little bit better than the US in a general context.”
Caveats carefully applied, this will add little or nothing to tonight’s friendly. It’s not gamesmanship or banter, simply restating that right now Mexico has the edge in Concacaf and nothing has fundamentally changed the Liga MX advantage over MLS. Atlanta United may have the Campeones Cup, but Mexico has a Champions League winning streak.
What this does for both countries is also nothing new. Both are well aware that the easiest and direct comparison is between each other, club or country. That’s not likely to change, though the balance of power at international level can certainly shift. It’s always worth the reminder that it was the USMNT picking up the biggest win in the series with Mexico in the round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup.
Changing things at club level is the bigger project. It’s not going to be Leagues Cup games with weak MLS rosters or Campeones Cups hosted in the US. It may not even be the Champions League if the MLS winner is an obvious underdog. Instead, it’s that perception issue. With that in mind, Carlos Vela at LAFC both helps and hurts. He’s obviously the best player in MLS, but would he be as effective playing for a Mexican club? There’s not a quick answer to that hypothetical, but it does add to the interesting situation for MLS vs Liga MX.
AS’s Ana Paulina Maupome relays USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s comments about American and Mexican soccer. ESPN’s Noah Davis and Dylan Butler look at the upsides for both teams. SI’s Brian Straus previews the USMNT vs Mexico friendly. Pro Soccer USA’s Dylan Butler raises the stakes for USMNT vs Mexico. Yahoo’s Doug McIntyre profiles Werder Bremen and USMNT forward Josh Sargent. Soccer America’s Brian Sciaretta stresses the importance of Weston McKennie for the USMNT.
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