Making the Switch: The Most Notable Player Transfers from MLS to Liga MX and Vice Versa

The rivalry between MLS and Liga MX is arguably at its peak, and things only seem to be heating up further. We take a look at some of the most notable player transfers between the two leagues both in recent and distant history. 

Major League Soccer and Liga MX have been the top leagues in North America for over 20 years. Given their proximity and intricate cultural and economic synergy, it’s no surprise that both leagues and respective national teams are destined rivals.

However, there is a long-standing history of trading off players between MLS and Liga MX.

The latest transfers saw United States men’s national team players Cade Cowell and Brandon Vazquez travel south to Chivas and Monterrey respectively, while promising Mexican wingback Omar Campos signed with LAFC.

Given a new chapter in this everlasting saga, we wanted to look back and revisit some of the best and worst transfers between both leagues.

MLS to Liga MX

cade cowell chivas

In Cowell’s case, his signing with El Rebaño Sagrado was a controversial one at first, as the Guadalajara club has a well-known tradition of utilizing only Mexican players. Although Cowell represents the USMNT internationally, he received his Mexican citizenship through his parents, which was just enough to bring him to Chivas.

Despite the initial controversy, Cowell became an instant hit among fans. His debut put the entire league on notice, showing everyone that his sharp style of play would be a problem.

It wasn’t long before he got on the scoreboard for Chivas, bagging two goals in his CONCACAF Champions Cup debut against Canadian side Forge FC. It’s clear Cowell is a good fit for Chivas, and with Chicharito also joining the club from an MLS side, we could be seeing the beginnings of a dynamic duo.

As for Vazquez, Los Rayados are one of the biggest spenders in the region. With an estimated value of nearly $100 million (the second-highest in the league behind only Club America), signings like Sergio Canales and Mexican star Tecatito Corona have made Monterrey one of the more feared teams in CONCACAF.

Vazquez makes for a perfect addition to Monterrey, a club well known for its lineage of prolific strikers. Following in the footsteps of Humberto ‘El Chupete’ Suazo and Rogelio Funes Mori will be no easy feat for Vazquez, but he seems up to the task so far, with fivegoals in his first eight appearances.

Looking past these two recent MLS-to-Liga-MX transfers, there has been a variety of others that have made the move to varying success.

Former FC Dallas homegrown player Alejandro Zendejas has been in the Mexican top flight since 2016, winning titles with both Chivas and Club America, while also making stops in Zacatapec and Necaxa. His success in Liga MX has perhaps been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding his decision to switch allegiances from Mexico to the United States for his international duties, however.

Even more recently, Chicho Arango opted for a shot at Liga MX glory, joining Club Pachuca after a very successful stint with LAFC. His time was short lived however, scoring five goals in only 13 games before returning to MLS with Real Salt Lake.

Perhaps the most successful move from MLS to Liga MX comes a bit further in the past.

USMNT forward Herculez Gomez was Liga MX sensation. After starting his youth career in Mexico with Cruz Azul, Gomez would make his professional debut with LA Galaxy in 2002, before later returning to Liga MX, where he would enter the best form of his career. Playing for clubs like Puebla, Santos, Tijuana, Pachuca, Tecos, and Tigres, Herc would end his Liga MX career with 56 goals and a league title under his belt.

Liga MX to MLS

omar campos lafc

Campos was regarded as a rising star the minute he hit the field. His time at Santos Laguna made him a popular name across Mexico, and his decisiveness and speed had many pleading for his name to be on Mexico’s senior team to helm the left-back position.

Although he didn’t make the jump to Europe, Campos’ playing style fits in perfectly with LAFC, and he bagged an assist in his MLS debut. If he can keep up this form, then he will definitely be a contender for newcomer of the year.

Before Omar, there was another Campos to find success in Los Angeles after a stint in Liga MX. Legendary goalkeeper Jorge Campos became an icon for LA Galaxy, often switching up to his second innate position as a striker.

Soon after Jorge Campos, players like Luis ‘El Matador’ Hernandez followed, scoring 15 goals in two seasons with the Galaxy.

One of the most successful transfers was current Mexican Governor of Morelos (yes, you read that right) Cuauhtemoc Blanco. His time with the Chicago Fire was well received and is regarded as one of the more impactful signings for the club.

However, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Arguably one of the best Mexican players of all time, Rafael Marquez had a troubling two seasons with the New York Red Bulls from 2010-2012. His stint ended with a red card in a playoff match against DC United, an ugly stain on an otherwise stellar career.

As the rivalry between both leagues continues to grow, and competitions like the CONCACAF Champions Cup and Leagues Cup increase in stature, not to mention the 2026 World Cup being around the corner, don’t expect the comparisons and player movement between both leagues to stop any time soon.

The question of which league is better between MLS and Liga MX will continue to be debated in barber shops, tailgates, and stadiums for years to come.

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