More than in any previous offseason, MLS teams have signed players from Liga MX. Money is the primary motivation for the transfer, but it doesn’t always have to be.
It has perhaps been the story of the offseason: Major League Soccer teams sweeping through Liga MX and picking up players. As of writing, 10 players have made the switch from Liga MX to MLS.
Many of these players have set club transfer records, many will be key contributors at their new clubs, some are there for depth purposes. But what is clear is that MLS teams can now attract players away from Liga MX teams. And that is entirely unique in league history.
So why is that? How come MLS teams are now able to convince Liga MX-based players to swap the dominant Mexican league in the CONCACAF region for an emerging league that is still yet to produce a team to win the CCL, a competition that pits the best of both leagues against one another.
Well, there are several factors, of course. From the improvement in the quality of the league to the chance to be a key player rather than slipping into the depth and rotation of a Liga MX team, thus better advertising yourself to your national team and potential European suitors. But while these are reasons that should, of course, be considered, there is one major factor that must be addressed: money.
Put simply, MLS teams can now pay Liga MX stars at a higher rate than their Mexican counterparts, especially those players who are not key players for their Liga MX team but will be Designed Players at their MLS team.
Alan Pulido, who transferred from C.D. Guadalajara to Sporting Kansas City, earlier in the offseason was asked about what attracted him to MLS. His answer was rather revealing:
"“The first thing is, life is different here in terms of the quality of life. That being said, the league in itself has grown a great amount. There have been names that have joined the league like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. This motivates players because you want to be on the stage with those types of names.”"
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Put plainly, MLS teams can offer Mexican-based players a higher wage, a safer place to live, especially if they have families based in Mexico, and the chance at stardom in the United States. Pulido also admits that he will better attract European clubs and potentially earn a place on the Mexican National Team with some strong performances, and that those possibilities played a part in his thinking, but make no mistake, if Sporting KC could not offer him more money or a better quality of life, he would not be at the club.
You could see this as a shot at MLS. But in reality, this is how all dominant leagues are born. The Premier League can attract the best players from any league in the world because they pay the highest wages and offer the highest quality of life. In turn, this brings better players to the competition, raises its standard, and then further attracts better players.
This is the likely trajectory for MLS, too. They will initially attract players from higher quality leagues because they can pay more. But as they do, the standard of the league will improve and more players will make the switch.
So if you are wondering why so many Liga MX-based players have made the switch to MLS this offseason, the primary motivator is money. But over time, that will change, and it will result in a higher standard league.