Ever since Univision let the cat out of the bag about a possible North American soccer tournament during their annual ‘upfront’ presentation to potential advertisers, American soccer fans have wondered how it would be structured. Well now we know.

The MLS and Mexico’s Primera Division will face off in the ‘SuperLiga’ this summer during July and August.

A new chapter in the soccer rivalry between the USA and Mexico began Saturday, when dignitaries from both countries were present to announce SuperLiga, the new tournament between teams from Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Primera Division.

Eight clubs — four each from MLS and the Primera Division — will take part in the inaugural competition this year, with a group phase to be followed by a knockout phase between July 24 and August 29. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Primera Division head Decio de Maria, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati and his Mexican counterpart, Justino Compeán, all took part in the unveiling of the tournament’s logo and opening round schedule at The Home Depot Center.

For the inaugural season, 4 teams from each side were selected to participate and there will be 15 matches total. This is one thing that concerns me. It’s clear that they are taking small steps and the first year will be different. They stated that future year’s participants would be selected via qualification:

Though the first edition of SuperLiga was set up by invitation to specific teams, qualification will determine future SuperLiga berths. A $1 million prize has been set for the winning club.

"Next year, it will be a qualifying process that will be balanced," said Garber. "That’s going to be an incentive for them to play harder and make every regular season game count, because they’ve got to win those games to reach what will be a very valuable tournament."

The initial proposal talked about 33 matches, so you have to hope that there will be more teams involved in the knockout rounds in future years. I’d hate to see it limited to such a small bracket long term. As for incentive, well the $1 million price will also be some incentive.

Overall this is a very exciting announcement and the MLS deserves praise for helping put this together and getting MLS clubs some stiff competition to face outside the regular season. Combine that with US Soccer finally agreeing to attend Copa America and this is going to be a fun year. Well that and, of course, The Women’s World Cup! Where we actually have a prayer! But I digress… (Cluex4 for FIFA – why does worldcup.com STILL point to 2006?)

My only remaining concern is the TV coverage. While Univision has exclusive rights to the tournament, that’s not the problem as almost all cable and satellite systems carry Univision, often in lower tier packages as well as the premium ones. However, Univision noted that instead the matches would be carried on Telefutura which is not in as many households. Hopefully Univision will carry at least the semis and final.

Of course you wouldn’t know a major new soccer tournament had been announced by reading American sports sites – most carried a very short AP article mentioning it. If you want a very in depth article with lots of quotes, go no farther than Univision which has a three page article dedicated to the new event. It translates into English fairly well.

My only complaint is that all the matches will be in the US. Hopefully if they expand in 2008 with more teams, some of the matches will be in Mexico. That’s only fair and would make watching the match even more fun.

Overall this is a great thing for American soccer. I know exactly
where I’ll be to watch the opening rounds – our local Mexican
restaurant that has TVs everywhere and at least one always has a soccer
match on. Mmmm soccer, margaritas, and a fried chicken burritos.

UPDATE: Nice to see the expected response from someone at BigSoccer. Good lord, it’s a step in the right direction – give it a chance. I know some people really hoped this would be a true CONCACAF Champions League, but it’s not. Will it morph into that someday? I think it’s unlikely, but you never know. But it may get CONCACAF’s attention if it is successful and that is a good thing. Don’t knock it till you try it!