The new format of the Leagues Cup has shown just how much MLS has grown compared to Mexican football, which seems to have stagnated.
The first reason why MLS has six of the eight places in the quarterfinals is because, despite the criticism over its tactical performance, the physical level and speed of play are above what is seen in Liga MX, which has been overtaken by the American sides.
Penalties aren’t a matter of luck either, so if Toluca and America were eliminated via spot kicks, it’s because their opponents were technically superior.
That being said, there was some controversy in Nashville, as VAR determined America goalkeeper Luis Malagon had jumped off his line too early on what seemed to be the game-winning penalty save.
Refereeing mistakes have hurt Liga MX teams in the Leagues Cup
Blaming refereeing for poor results also speaks to the competitiveness of a team, because refereeing errors are part of the game and teams have to fight through that.
There have been several incidents that have hurt Mexican teams and, in the specific case of Inter Miami, there has also been a tendency to take care of Lionel Messi, the jewel of the MLS.
Carlos Salcedo critical of the fact a non-existent foul was called against Cruz Azul that resulted in a free kick that Messi fired home.
Several Liga MX figures have complained about the issue. Leon coach Nicolas Larcamon even said that the Leagues Cup was designed for the benefit of MLS teams, while Miguel Herrera also criticized the refereeing.
Playing in the U.S. gives MLS an advantage
Although Tata Martino hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that the rules were clear from the beginning and no one forced Mexican teams to play the Leagues Cup in the United States, MLS clubs have an advantage.
Antonio Mohamed touched on the subject prior to the match against the Montreal Impact and noted that the playing field wasn’t as level as it is in the Concacaf Champions Cup.
As for the Leagues Cup, it is played in the USA, in their climate and in front of their fans, although he did acknowledge the MLS has grown.
“It seems to me that the tournament gives the home team an advantage given they are in front of their fans, their climate, their stadium, but in sporting terms, the league here has grown a lot,” said the Pumas coach, who was eliminated in the round of 32 by Quertaro, one of the two survivors of Liga MX along with Monterrey.
Little hope of survival for Liga MX
The bad run for Mexican teams continues in the round of 16 of the Leagues Cup. The only two representatives remaining will face off against two of the top six clubs in the MLS this season.
Next Friday, Queretaro will look to continue its dream tournament and give Liga MX something to cheer about when it visits the Philadelphia Union, runner-up in MLS and the fourth best team in 2023.
Meanwhile, on paper, the hopes of Mexican soccer are pinned on Rayados, due to the quality of their squad.
However, they will face the reigning MLS champions, Carlos Vela‘s Los Angeles FC.
A complicated challenge, but they can draw inspiration from Leon, who already beat LAFC in the Champions League final, albeit in a two-legged encounter.