MLS, Mexican league team up

Times Staff Writer

It wasn't exactly the other shoe dropping in the wake of David Beckham's signing, but Major League Soccer did make its second significant announcement of the week on Saturday.

The league said that it had joined forces with its Mexican counterpart to launch an annual tournament to be called the SuperLiga, initially an eight-team event, which will determine a North American champion.

Four teams from MLS will take part, along with four from Mexico. The winner will get $1 million -- the largest prize ever for a North American event.

Beckham will arrive in time to play in the tournament's first edition, set for July 29-Aug. 24, with the four MLS cities serving as hosts. In future years, Mexican cities also will stage games, and the SuperLiga might also grow to more than eight teams.

Representing MLS in 2007 will be the Galaxy, reigning MLS champion Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas and D.C. United. Representing Mexico will be defending league champion Chivas de Guadalajara, Club America, Pachuca and Morelia.

The Galaxy was put in Group A, along with Chivas, Dallas and Pachuca. The top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout phase.

Participation this year was by invitation but in the future it will be based on performance.

Club America Coach Luis Fernando Tena welcomed the new competition, saying it would benefit clubs in both countries and noting that by signing Beckham "American soccer is showing how serious it is when it comes to the sport."

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Necaxa won the InterLiga championship Saturday in front of a sellout crowd of 27,000 at the Home Depot Center, defeating Jaguares de Chiapas, 1-0, to go through the eight-team tournament undefeated in four games.

A 39th-minute goal by Brazilian striker Kleber -- his tournament-high fourth -- was the difference, and the victory qualified Necaxa for South America's prestigious Copa Libertadores.

In the first round of the Copa, Necaxa will play Sao Paulo of Brazil, Audax Italiano of Chile and Alianza Lima of Peru.

In the nightcap Saturday, Club America overcame Tigres UANL, 4-2, on penalty kicks after regulation and 30 minutes of overtime ended without a goal.

By finishing as runner-up in the InterLiga, Club America will play Sporting Cristal of Peru in a playoff for a spot in the Copa Libertadores. If America wins, it will play Banfield of Argentina, Libertad of Paraguay and El Nacional of Ecuador.

Toluca, Mexico's other representative in South America's equivalent of the European Champions League, will play Boca Juniors of Argentina, Bolivar of Bolivia and a Peruvian team still to be determined.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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