On a day that saw the formal announcement of Thierry Henry’s signing with New York and the start of the annual Summer friendlies between MLS teams and world renown clubs, MLS and Mexican clubs started their Superliga tournament. The 8 team event features 4 teams from MLS and 4 teams from Mexico’s Primera Division. Placed into groups of four (consisting of two MLS teams and two Mexican teams), the teams play one game against each team in their group before a semi-final and final. In addition to declaring a US/Mexican champion, Superliga provides a unique marketing opportunity for both MLS and its Mexican counterpart. The Mexican teams get an opportunity to play meaningful games in the U.S. before Mexican ex-pats, while MLS gets to showcase its teams before a Latino fan-base still warming to American Soccer.
Despite lukewarm attendance, the tournament continues to draw significant sponsors. Companies such as Toyota, Sprint, Degree and GEICO sponsor the Spanish language broadcasts. Other companies such American Airlines, State Farm and Lowes spend money on board advertisements. As with previous years, the matches are only televised in Spanish.
Coming mid-season, the event is a bit controversial as it forces teams to take a break from League play. MLS teams are then forced to make up games with some additional mid-week games during the rest of the season. In addition, SuperLiga does detract from the Champions League that also pits teams from MLS, Mexico and other CONCACAF countries. However, as a business model, SuperLiga is a fantastic idea. We have repeatedly discussed how there are enumerable soccer fans in the United States, many of whom do not pay attention to MLS. Many of these fans are far more interested in Mexican Soccer and Superliga does serve as an entre to MLS. Ultimately, we view the tournament as neither a fierce competition or a waste of time, but a golden business opportunity. With the World Cup fading into the rear view mirror, the tourament provides an opportunity to keep a form of international competition in front of fans.