Manuel Veth –
Carlos Vela is going to become the first ever designated player of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC). The move was announced via the club’s Twitter account on Tuesday and Vela will become just the third player to sign for the club. Earlier this month LAFC also announced the signing of former US national team coach Bob Bradley making him the franchises first ever manager.
— LAFC (@LAFC) August 9, 2017
Carlos Vela will become the third active Mexican national team player to play in Los Angeles after LAFC’s city rivals have signed Jonathan dos Santos on July 27. Jonathan dos Santos joined his brother Giovani, which means that Los Angeles and Major League Soccer will be home to three of El Tri’s major stars come the 2018 MLS season.
Many Mexican supporters, who were hoping that the forward would return to Liga MX, however, also viewed Carlos Vela’s move to MLS on January 1, 2018, critically. The criticism on social media towards Vela meant that Javier Hernandez had step up and defend his El Tri teammate.
Carlos Vela – Chicharito Defends the Forward’s Decision to Join MLS
Asked about Vela heading to the United States Chicharito said: “If he keeps on showing the level he’s shown Osoria [the manager of the Mexican national team], or whoever watches him, will keep calling him up. If we make decisions in our lives from time to time and they make us Mexican proud, what else is there for us to do? We are after all pursuing our happiness.”
Chicharito also pointed out that the Dos Santos brothers made the decision to play in LA together and that Jonathan always had the dream to one day play in the same club with Giovani once again—the two went through Barcelona’s youth academy together. Chicharito concluded: “They are my teammates and I love and admire them. I am tired of looking at the negatives side of things whenever questions are made in Mexico. Whether we win, lose or draw. Whether some guys play abroad or whether they are pursuing happiness. Whether they try to grow their profile. There is always negativity.”
Chicharito, of course, has a point. His move to West Ham United was criticized—especially as it was believed that he could move to a club with Champions League ambitions. Carlos Vela in the meantime was linked to several clubs in the Bundesliga—Wolfsburg were interested—or could have returned to Liga MX where the likes of Chivas wanted to bring him in.
Perhaps that is where the animosity originates. The fact that those three Mexican national team stars are seeing their careers out in the United States rather than in Mexico. Some in Mexico, therefore, must feel that Carlos Vela is betraying his home country by taking a multi-million deal in Major League Soccer rather than playing for the likes of Chivas in what is still the most competitive league in the Americas.
USMNT Fans Quickly Suggested a Power Shift
Fans of the United States national team supporters, who were quick to point out that MLS was attracting the big stars from Mexico did not help the issue. The animosity between fans of the United States Men’s National Team or #USMNT on Twitter—yes that is a thing in America—and Mexico means that the rivalry has transcended to the two national leagues of the two countries.
— Bryan W (@BryanRMW) August 8, 2017
There is, of course, a bit of Schadenfreude here for Major League Soccer fans. For years their teams have been dismantled by Liga MX sides in the CONCACAF Champions League, and no Major League Soccer club has ever won the trophy. Even with the reform of the CONCACAF Champions League, this is unlikely to change.
The reason for that is simple. The structure of Major League Soccer may allow teams in the United States and Canada to sign some of the world’s brightest stars. It is unlikely that we would have seen the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo or David Villa play in Mexico. But at the same time, Liga MX sides are not lopsided.
In fact, even with the salaries of the top stars in MLS squad Liga MX teams on average spent more money on their whole squad. The reality in Major League Soccer is that for every Schweinsteiger, who is on a multi-million salary, you will have ten MLS players, who make just enough money to be deemed, middle class.
Liga MX Dominates MLS on and off the Field
This wage disparity is not the case in Liga MX. Here teams balance the salary among all the players in the squad. And while teams like Tigres manage to sign players on multi-million deals those players do not upset the wage balance the same way as it is the case in Major League Soccer.
In 2017 the salary cap stood at $3.845 million. Exceptions to the DP rule and various other opt outs mean that MLS clubs spent much more on their squads of course. Toronto FC ($22.48 million) and New York City FC ($17.93 million) are the top spenders. The arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who earns $5.4 million, at the Chicago Fire has meant that the club’s budget went up to $12.95 million. The example of Schweinsteiger, however, also highlights the wage disparity as he is responsible for almost have of the Chicago Fire’s squad budget.
Wage restrictions caused by the salary cap, however, have meant that increasingly American players have moved to Liga MX where there is no salary cap. Back in 2014 Liga MX players made $424,000 on average compared to the $200,000 MLS players make this season in Major League season.
It is not just on the field that Liga MX dominates MLS. But Mexican clubs also dominate MLS teams off the field financially. Hence, while Vela and other Mexicans signing for MLS is good news for the growth of soccer in the United States, it is for now not enough to break the dominance of Mexican league football over US league football.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.