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SuperLiga is back for second year

Times Staff Writer

It took former UCLA and current New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis to perfectly sum up the general feeling regarding the SuperLiga tournament.

“We’re somewhat looking forward to the upcoming games,” Reis said of the eight-team, 15-match event that begins today and runs through Aug. 5 in six U.S. cities.

The emphasis is on the word “somewhat.” No one has yet been bowled over by yet another tournament being added to the soccer calendar, and because this one comes in the middle of the MLS season it only adds to the confusion.

This is the second edition of the SuperLiga, a tournament manufactured by Major League Soccer and the Mexican league to take advantage of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry.

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Last year, Mexico’s Pachuca won it all, defeating the Galaxy in the final to take home the lion’s share of the $1 million in prize money. The defending champions open against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Also taking part this time in addition to Chivas USA and the Revolution are D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo from MLS, while Pachuca is joined by Mexican league rivals Santos Laguna, Atlante and Chivas de Guadalajara.

“I think if MLS wants to grow, our teams have to start doing well in competitions like this against Mexican clubs,” said Houston and U.S. national team forward Brian Ching.

What MLS would like to see is its teams competing in the Copa Libertadores, the hemisphere’s premier club tournament. Mexican clubs have taken part, with Club America reaching this year’s semifinals, but MLS teams have watched from the sideline.

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But the fact that MLS teams have managed to go toe-to-toe with Mexican clubs in recent years means that Mexican clubs have to pay more attention.

“I think their teams used to play with reserves and they thought they didn’t have to be on top of their game,” Reis said. “But I think now they are taking us a lot more seriously.”

Chivas USA midfielder Francisco “Panchito” Mendoza said his own motivation for the SuperLiga goes beyond merely showing Mexican clubs that MLS teams are competitive with them. “Personally, it’s very important playing these games in order to show my own ability in my home country in hopes of being called up for the national squad,” he said.

Chivas USA also plays Santos Laguna on Wednesday in Carson and the Revolution on July 20 at Titan Stadium in Fullerton.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com


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