Sounders Insider

Liga MX ahead of MLS; but Garber wants to close gap, and Schmid says it's happening

LogoMLS LigaMLSounders FC moves into the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals Wednesday facing Tigres of Mexico, perhaps the best team in the best league of the region.

That first part – getting past Tigres – is Seattle’s short-term problem.

But that second part – Major League Soccer catching and passing Liga MX – is a longer-term problem for MLS and commissioner Don Garber.

Garber has publicly embraced the goal of making MLS one of the top leagues in the world within 10 years. But he acknowledged last week in Seattle an interim goal of passing Liga MX to become the best league in the North America, Central America and Caribbean region.

"It’s very important. We’ve got to do better in the Champions League," Garber said Saturday at CenturyLink Field. "The opportunity for an MLS team to win the Champions league in this region and go to a World Club Championship and compete against some of the best clubs in the world is an important goal. It’s something that we are pushing our clubs to be mindful of and hope that they would take that tournament — which I think is much better-managed with the new leadership at CONCACAF — far more seriously than some clubs have taken it in the past.”"

CCL alone is not a perfect way of determining which league is superior -- although it says a lot that Mexican teams are four-for-four in CCL finals, three times against fellow Mexican opponents.

So this week, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was asked how the leagues of the CONCACAF region stack up in a bigger-picture sense.

Here is his response:

The comparison is difficult because of the following reasons. When we play in the preliminary group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League, we’re in a little bit of better rhythm than the Mexican teams are because they’re just starting off their clausura, and because of that, for us, we’ve been in a rhythm of games, our league fitness level is better. Then when you get to this stage, it’s the complete opposite. They’re in the rhythm, they’re in the middle of their season, they’ve already got eight-nine games under their belts, and we’re at the beginning of our season. So sometimes those comparisons are a little bit askew just because of the timing of the tournament. But in general right now, Mexico is the top league in our confederation. Obviously the U.S. is the next-best league. I think the gap is closing as evidenced by Dallas being able to come down here and win, of us being able to come and win at Monterrey. I think when you look at the lineup that they’ll put out there against us, and the lineup that Santos put out against us last year, they’re going with first choice lineups against MLS team now; where if you go back maybe three years, even at this stage of the competition they would not put out a first-choice lineup. I think that shows they have a greater respect for our league and that the gap between the two leagues has definitely narrowed and they know that if they don’t play their top teams they’re not going to come away with a result; and even if they play their top team it’s going to be a battle. So I think it’s definitely norrowed. The edge is probably still with them at this point in time, but hopefully that will change here in the next two or three years.