Superliga is viewed by some as a blatant money grab by MLS and the Mexican Primera League, but the bottom line is the event is being played for some serious prize money and could bring considerable prestige to Major League Soccer if an MLS club wins the competition. That is easier said than done: MLS has not one a major international competition since 2000, and an MLS club has not defeated a Mexican club in an international competition since 1998. But in this year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup both Houston and DC United took Pachuca and Chivas to the brink in the semifinals and both showed an ability to compete hard score goals on Mexican soil, something that continues to elude the US National Team when it travels to Mexico.
This season’s Superliga is very much experimental. In future years, we will likely see home and away matches in the group stages as well as a merit based qualification from both leagues. This year the LA Galaxy one of the weakest MLS sides was included because of David Beckham (who ironically could miss Superliga with an injury) and Morelia because they are owned by TV Azteca who owns the broadcast rights for the matches in Mexico.
Let’s take a closer look at the teams competing in Superliga.
1- DC United
United is according to Paul Gardner, the dean of American soccer writers, “the most Latin oriented team in the league and by no coincidence its most successful.” (World Soccer, April 2007). This Latin orientation and overall quality of the squad means United is likely the only MLS based team that will advance to the knock out stages of the event. Luciano Emilio is the best finisher in MLS, and Christian Gomez is the league’s best playmaker. Look for Fred and Jaime Moreno to also provide potent attacking skill. The backline is a bit of mess, but the recent addition of Greg Vanney a former US national team player with several years of club experience in Europe should help DC advance. One liability is Troy Perkins who since a remarkable gaffe that cost DC United a chance to defeat Chivas in the CONCACAF Champions Cup has been indecisive in goal and generally a mess.
2- Club America
Nelson Cuevas is a special player, and the US learned first hand at Copa America. Cuevas has scored three goals in the World Cup and helps to stimulate the America attack. Fellow Paraguay International Salvador Cabanas is also a potent player going forward. The loss of Cuauhtémoc Blanco to the Chicago Fire hurts America’s fans more than the club who wisely brought in Hernán Rodrigo López and Lucas Castroman to fill the void left by Blanco whose number 10 has been retired by the club for the next five years.