Major League Soccer runs a soccer promotion company, Soccer United Marketing, that organizes three international club competitions. One thing I’ve always liked about soccer is the myriad of international competitions but while most of the world has been cancelling or combining the relatively pointless tournaments, MLS has been creating new ones.
Interliga (founded 2004)
This tournament involves eight Mexican league teams but is played in the USA, currently only in California and Texas due to their large Mexican populations. The Texas-based games have average attendances over 20,000 so there’s at least some financial incentive but the California public seems to be uninterested with crowds of 5,000. The point of this tournament is to determine Mexico’s entries (as guests) in the Copa Libertadores (the South American club competition). However, this sorting out is done easily enough by just about every other country in the world by simply using season performance as the criteria.
Superliga (founded 2007)
This tournament pits the top four teams from Mexico’s 1a Div. against the top four teams from MLS. Yes, that means that several of the Mexican clubs whose seasons are already cluttered up by the Interliga suffer further overbooking due to this pointless tournament. The only thing on the line is bragging rights and some prize money. Some have suggested that the Interliga be scrapped and the Copa Libertadores spots be transferred over to the Superliga. That probably makes some sense.
Pan-Pacific Championship (founded 2008)
This ridiculous tournament seems to have been created to give the Los Angeles Galaxy some additional exposure. They made it into the first tournament as Superliga runners-up (how prestigious!) and the second tournament as hosts. The nature and format of the tournament is bewildering, as well. The first year involved the champions of MLS, Japan’s J.League and Australia’s/New Zealand’s A-League competing for some make believe ‘championship’ of the Pacific. In the 2nd year, the MLS and A-League champions were nowhere to be found and champions of Korea’s K-League and China’s Super League were brought onboard. Again, the point? At least the first tournament was staged in Hawaii, where it was well-received in a sports scene that is devoid of high-profile soccer.
ON THE OTHER HAND: WORTHWHILE SIDE COMPETITIONS NOT ORGANIZED BY MLS
CONCACAF Champions League
Admittedly the old, smaller Champions Cup format didn’t receive much attention but the new format makes the Superliga completely irrelevant and yet the Superliga continues to exist. The Champions League determines the club champion of North/Central America and the Caribbean. The winner also earns a spot in the Club World Cup. MLS teams have done terribly in the first edition of the Champions League, outperformed by officially ‘minor league’ teams from Canada and Puerto Rico and from relatively small leagues like that of Honduras.
US Open Cup
A great tournament that probably receives less attention than it could because MLS doesn’t organize/promote it. It pits teams from all levels of American soccer from the amateur ranks all the way up to MLS against each other. The tournament is also old as hell and gives minor league fans a chance to see MLS teams to their town.
FIFA Club World Cup
The world championship involving the champions of the major regions. MLS has yet to send a team due to its teams’ poor performance in the Champions Cup/League.