The $12 million transfer of Mexican national team midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro from Monterrey to Inter Miami this week brought up an intriguing question: Is MLS a better launchpad to a European club than Liga MX? That was the debate we’ve been hearing this week in media on both sides of the border, and Pizarro himself said that Tata Martino, the Mexican national team coach who used to be in Atlanta, told him MLS was more or less equal to Liga MX.
But I think both of these debates are missing the real point. With all due respect to Tata Martino, MLS is closing the gap with Liga MX, but it’s not close to being equal yet, as we can tell by the Mexican domination of the Concacaf Champions League, which started up again this week–with LAFC promptly losing to Club Leon in the first leg of the round of 16 on Tuesday.
Nor do I think MLS is necessarily a better gateway to Europe than Liga MX. Think about it: Liga MX players still go directly to Europe. But the change in the last couple years is that it’s now possible to go from Liga MX or a South American league to MLS and then make a big-money move to Europe. That’s what Miguel Almiron did in leaving Atlanta United for Newcastle, and that’s what we may well see from Atlanta's Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco, LAFC's Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez–or even Rodolfo Pizarro.
MLS has a lot going for it. But it’s still got a ways to go to catch Liga MX.