02/15/2019 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- Atlanta United player and Landon Donovan 2018 MLS MVP Josef Martinez [cq] (left) shares a laugh with Atlanta United president Darren Eales[cq] (right) during an Atlanta United uniform unveiling at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Friday, February 15, 2019. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Eales describes Campeones Cup as ‘prestigious’

Atlanta United President Darren Eales described the upcoming Campeones Cup as a prestigious competition and that he would love for the team to become the first MLS club to win the one-game matchup against Club America.

“We like to break any record we can,” Eales said.

Atlanta United qualified for the Cup by winning the MLS Cup last season. Club America qualified by defeating Tigres in a matchup of the LIGA MX Apertura and Clausura champs. The game, which is hosted and run by MLS, will be Aug. 14 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. More than 20,000 tickets have been sold as of Tuesday.

Eales said the Campeones Cup, won by Tigres which defeated Toronto last season in the inaugural run, is an innovative opportunity to build rivalries with LIGA MX clubs, increase TV exposure and produce more interest in MLS.

“Anything we can do to gain more exposure for leagues and club is a good thing,” Eales said.

Eales agreed that should Atlanta United win, it doesn’t mean that MLS clubs are on par with LIGA MX clubs because of the long-term effect of rules regarding roster construction and player acquisition that LIGA MX clubs aren’t encumbered by.

However, Eales said a victory would be “a stepping stone that shows we can compete with these LIGA MX clubs.”

LIGA MX clubs have dominated competitions that include MLS club. LIGA MX has won the past 14 CONCACAF Champions Leagues, last year’s Campeones Cup, and are heavily favored to win the ongoing Leagues Cup.

To increase the probability of more consistent competition between MLS and LIGA MX should include the league looking at how to improve in the Champions League by demonstrating growth in talent acquisition and implementation, according to Eales.

The MLSPA and MLS are negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that could take those steps. The current CBA expires in January 2020.

But the beauty of the Campeones Cup is it’s just one game where anything can happen, and Atlanta United should benefit from playing the game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. MLS said only the stadium’s lower bowl will be open for ticket sales and distribution, which should result in Atlanta United supporters as the majority.

“One of the strengths of our games, whether it’s full bowl or soccer capacity, we get hat energy in that stadium,” Eales said.

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