Aug 25, 2021 - Sports

What to know about the 2021 MLS All-Star game

Illustration of two feet kicking a soccer ball which has colors and elements from both the U.S. and Mexico flags
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The 2021 MLS All-Star Game kicks off Wednesday night in Los Angeles (9:30p.m. ET, FS1 and Univision), and the stakes are higher than ever, with stars from MLS playing stars from Liga MX (Mexico).

Why it matters: Two leagues squaring off in an All-Star Game in the middle of their seasons is unprecedented. And these aren't any two leagues — MLS and Liga MX are regional rivals.

The backdrop: MLS has had numerous All-Star Game formats over the years. There was East vs. West, MLS USA vs. MLS World, MLS All-Stars vs. USMNT, and since 2005, the opposition has been top European clubs.

  • Tonight's matchup could be the most competitive game yet, thanks to the longstanding soccer rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico.
  • Reminder: The USMNT beat Mexico in the Nations League and Gold Cup finals this summer, so Liga MX is out for revenge.

What they're saying: "Some of the best sporting events I've ever been to are USA-Mexico matches," MLS commissioner Don Garber told me via phone. "If we can deliver a club version of that incredible rivalry, it's going to be great for our leagues and our fans."

  • MLS, with 27 teams in the U.S. and Canada, and Liga MX, with 18 teams in Mexico, have competed in numerous competitions. But this week's festivities, which began with Tuesday's skills challenge, represent their most intimate collaboration.
  • "Liga MX is looking to open up the commercial market here in the U.S., and MLS is looking to grow the connection with Mexican-American soccer fans," says Garber. "So we both have mutual goals that games like this help us achieve."

The big picture: Earlier this year, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said a merger between MLS and Liga MX could produce "the best league in the world." While Garber says there are no such plans, he's enthusiastic about broader cooperation between the two leagues.

  • "My view is, there's no reason why CONCACAF (North America, Central America and Caribbean) in time can't be as important as CONMEBOL (South America), and even — in many, many years — as important as UEFA (Europe)."
  • "We do things a little differently in this part of the world, but we have rabid fans and a robust commercial market. And a close association between MLS and Liga MX is going to help drive growth."

Go deeper: Top 10 players who appeared in both MLS and Liga MX (MLS.com)

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