We're still a ways away from the MLS All-Star Game but, following Wednesday's announcement, there are plenty of reasons to be excited.
MLS revealed on Wednesday that the All-Star Game will now be played against a team of Liga MX's best, further strengthening the partnership between the two leagues. In recent years, the Campeones Cup, Leagues Cup and Concacaf Champions League have presented some compelling matchups, but the idea of an MLS All-Star team taking on a Liga MX XI is certainly a fun one.
The game is still several months away, and much will surely change on both sides when it comes to transfers in and out for both sides, but it's still easy to envision two potential teams that will go head-to-head at Banc of California Stadium in July.
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Here's how the MLS and Liga MX teams could lineup for next summer's All-Star Game:
Starters: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United); Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Ike Opara (Minnesota United) Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC), Eduard Atuesta (LAFC), Maxi Moralez (NYCFC), Carlos Vela (LAFC), Josef Martinez (Atlanta United), Cristian Pavon (LA Galaxy).
Bench: Sean Johnson (NYCFC); Walker Zimmerman (LAFC), Aaron Long (NYCFC); Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders).
An All-Star game is supposed to present fantasy matchups, and the thought of Carlos Vela going head-to-head with the best Liga MX has to offer is certainly a fun one. The Mexico international, who has had a notably up-and-down relationship with the federation, had a career-best year in 2019, smashing record after record as LAFC ran away with the Supporters' Shield. It's hard to imagine Vela not showing up motivated for a match on his home field against several of his international teammates, and there are few players in MLS more fun to watch than an in-the-zone Vela.
While Vela is the headliner, the MLS side does have plenty of attacking talent. Josef Martinez and Cristian Pavon are dangerous, as are midfielders like Maxi Moralez and Alejandro Pozuelo. This MLS team wouldn't have an issue with creating chances and, if they do, former Morelia forward Raul Ruidiaz headlines options off the bench.
Just to add a bit of flavor, the roster could also include several U.S. men's national team regulars, like Jordan Morris and Michael Bradley, adding another layer to what should already be a fairly heated match as far as midsummer friendlies go.
Liga MX All-Stars
Starters: Guillermo Ochoa (America); Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez (Tigres), Carlos Salcedo (Tigres), Nico Sanchez (Monterrey), Cristian Calderon (Necaxa); Carlos Rodriguez (Monterrey), Guido Rodriguez (America); Rodolfo Pizarro (Monterrey), Giovani dos Santos (America), Brian Lozano (Santos Laguna), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres)
Bench: Nahuel Guzman (Tigres); Pablo Aguilar (Cruz Azul), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey); Guido Pizarro (Tigres), Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey), Jose Juan Macias (Leon), Angel Mena (Leon), Mauro Quiroga (Necaxa)
This is an All-Star team - not a best XI, so there need to be some big-name players there. Guys like Giovani dos Santos aren’t playing up to anywhere near the level of, say, an Angel Mena right now, but the drama of Gio going up against his former teammates and MLS rivals would be too much to pass up. The same could be said of the goalkeepers. Guillermo Ochoa and his luscious locks sell in North America, and Nahuel Guzman has made a name for himself as well, so they’re in the team at the expense of players like Atlas goalkeeper Camilo Vargas.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some players in top form in this group. Guido Rodriguez is one of the best players in the Americas, though we’ll see how much longer he stays in this region. Brian Lozano has been superb for Santos Laguna this year, earning starting minutes with Uruguay as well. And Andre-Pierre Gignac is Gignac.
This all could change by the summer, but for now this is a roster that could be the right blend between the most marketable stars that are necessary in an exhibition (which is what this game is) and players actually at the top of their game in Liga MX play.