Inter Miami and Nashville play for the Leagues Cup championship at 9 p.m. at GEODIS Park, the Tennessee club’s home stadium.
The clubs joined MLS together in 2020 and tonight one will win its first-ever trophy…but how prestigious is a prize that saddled more than a third of contestants with a handicap?
After the third-place and championship games tonight, 77 Leagues Cup matches will have been played. In only four of those matches — four — did a Mexican side host a match, and only because they were playing another Mexican side.
Fans just want to have fun
Major League Soccer and Liga MX — the first division professional leagues in the United States and Mexico, respectively — paused their seasons for a month to play a World Cup-style competition in which all 47 of their teams would compete. This expanded version of the Leagues Cup has been great fun; exciting matches, spectacular goals, dramatic comebacks and thrilling individual and team performances...several by made-over Inter Miami with its Barcelona Alumni -- Jordi Albi, Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi.
It has been fun. But it hasn’t been fair.
Unequal travel tarnishes trophy's luster
Inter Miami coach Tata Martino has vouched for the tournament’s integrity, noting that the Mexican league and teams agreed to the logistics. But the former Mexican national team coach said he’d like to see the playing field leveled in the future.
In a story posted earlier today on 90 min.com, Braden Chalker had this quote from “Tata”:
"I think it's fair to play a tournament where the US teams can be home and away and can travel like the Mexican teams have traveled," Martino said. "I cannot ignore some complaints that have to do with logistics, especially from the Mexican teams, which are the teams that spent the longest time in the United States going from one place to another."
"I cannot ignore some complaints that have to do with logistics, especially from the Mexican teams"- Gerardo Martino, Inter Miami coach
Martino said the MLS teams should be required to travel to their away games in the future.
"Yes, it is a greater wear on the teams that have had to travel, and in the case of Monterrey, which advanced to the semifinals, it is the one that has clearly traveled the most, the one that has come to suffer logistics, change of departure times of charters, training places, going from one place to another in the country," he said.
Worth tweaking and keeping
The leagues created the competition in order to increase exposure of their teams in the other’s country, to provide added competition to help develop more skilled players, and to make money by selling tickets and broadcast rights. The tournament’s competitive integrity seemed to be an afterthought.
But it is possible we could see more balanced schedules in the future, which I think would benefit both leagues.