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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)

Go deeper

The advertising invasion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The NHL will allow teams to sell sponsorship patches on their uniforms beginning in the 2022-23 season.

Why it matters: Jersey advertisements have become increasingly prevalent in North American sports over the past decade or so, and the pandemic appears to be speeding up adoption.

Updated 59 mins ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

2 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

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