MLS to meet Mexican league counterparts in All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Landon Donovan can be excused for thinking Major League Soccer’s top players had faced their Mexican league counterparts in an All-Star game before.

The MLS showcase has had various formats over the years, so it can be hard for former players and fans to keep track. Next season’s game will be the first one to match the top players from the prominent North American leagues.

The 2020 MLS All-Star Game will be played July 29 at Banc of California Stadium. MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Liga MX Executive President Enrique Bonilla made the announcement Wednesday at the stadium, which is the home of Los Angeles FC.

“Why the heck haven’t we done this before? It makes too much sense,” said Donovan, who played in both leagues. “If you think the guys in Liga MX aren’t coming to show themselves, you are crazy. It is going to be a lot of fun.”

Garber said there have been discussions with Bonilla in the past, but they didn’t come to fruition. As the relationship between the two leagues has developed, though, both sides decided this would be the right time with MLS celebrating its 25th season in 2020.

The All-Star Game was mostly an East vs. West affair from 1996 to 2004. Since 2005, it has matched the league’s stars against a European club. Atletico Madrid — the 10-time Spanish League champion — won last year’s game in Orlando 3-0.

This will be the second MLS All-Star Game in the Los Angeles area following a 3-1 win by the league’s All-Stars over Chivas in 2003 at the home of the LA Galaxy in Carson.

“The relationship with Liga MX is continuing to form and has taken on a lot of energy recently,” Garber said. “This is going to be a special matchup to celebrate. Hopefully, we will get a competitive matchup that works.”

The two leagues have taken part in the CONCACAF Champions League with other clubs from the Caribbean and Central America but they have added two new competitions. The MLS and Liga MX have met in the Campeones Cup the last two seasons. Last year, they started the eight-team Leagues Cup tournament.

“Bringing the best of both leagues to the field and giving to the fans is the most important things we can do together besides any official tournament,” Bonilla said.

It is fitting the game is taking place in Los Angeles. Not only does it have one of the largest Latino populations in the world, but it is a battleground for both leagues.

LAFC has sold out every home game since its inception in 2018 and won MLS’ Supporters Shield for earning the most points in the regular season this year. Liga MX holds its Campeon de Campeones, matching the winners of its Apertura and Clausura split-season tournaments, and Supercopa MX in Carson as well as holding its season-ending awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

A fan vote will be part of the selection process for both teams for next year’s All-Star Game. MLS also has manager selections and commissioner picks. LAFC manager Bob Bradley will coach the MLS squad.

July is shaping up to be an All-Star month in Los Angeles. Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is scheduled for July 14 at Dodger Stadium.

“Most cities would be happy to get one all-star game or big sports event a decade, but we are getting two. The city is going to throw a huge party. We have a lot to celebrate,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.