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Leagues Cup shows quality, depth of MLS rosters must improve

It’s a shame the LA Galaxy were unable to put their best foot forward in the inaugural edition of the Leagues Cup, the newly formed competition between MLS and Liga MX clubs.

With LA chasing a playoff spot Guillermo Barros Schelotto kept his stars off the field for the semifinal match vs. Cruz Azul, and sure enough La Maquina scored two golazos en route to a comfortable victory. As it was the blue white and gold were the only domestic team to advance to the semis following a wild shootout win over Club Tijuana. The Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake bowed out to superior Mexican clubs, undoubtedly in part due to their ability to rotate their squads and maintain a high level of quality, a luxury American clubs simply do not have.

In the cases of LA and Houston, the teams signaled ahead of time they would field second-string rosters, news that immediately raised red flags on social media. Why should the fans embrace another new tournament when the teams themselves can’t be arsed?

Many outlets (ourselves included) have derided this tournament as a cash grab, a cynical ploy to separate dedicated supporters from their hard earned money. It certainly felt that way at times Tuesday night, as a boisterous sea of blue showed up only to discover Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristian Pavón were unavailable that evening, as was Mexican international Jona dos Santos.

To add insult to injury, Uriel Antuna, hero of the Gold Cup, was handed a teaser appearance. You had to feel for the Cruz Azul fans: The Galaxy were giving their team a competitive match, but they deserved more.

Truth be told, the generically-named Leagues Cup (we prefer the Spanglish sounding Campeones Cup) does have loads of untapped potential. A talent gap still exists between the two leagues, but a schedule that favors MLS teams helps even the odds. The play on the field has been exciting, and the USA is the ideal neutral spot to host these matches.

Dennis te Kloese, a fan of the new tournament, agrees. As the Galaxy general manager notes in the above clip, the league must do what is necessary to improve the quality and depth of the rosters and help MLS teams compete with their wealthier counterparts. For the owners, this will mean opening their checkbooks.

With the player’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring January 31st, this winter is the opportune time for the league to try and close the gap with Liga MX.