Mexico’s top flight football division is the most popular in North America, whilst the MLS continues to grow in a country that 20 years ago had very little interest in soccer.
There have already been discussions between the two leagues. Announced in March 2018, the two divisions ran the inaugural Leagues Cup with four teams from each country participating in a knockout tournament. The quarter-finals took place in July, culminating on 18 September 2019 at the Stam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
The final was contested between two Mexican sides, with Cruz Azul beat UANL 2-1 in front of an attendance of just over 20,000. These are the early stages of the MLS and Liga MX doing business together. But could the leagues merge into one?
The aim was to elevate the popularity of the game in North America, perhaps in time for the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by Mexico, USA and Canada combined.
America’s other big sports; Basketball, Baseball and Ice Hockey all have the odd team from Canada in their leagues, but none from Mexico.
MLS and Liga MX clubs already compete for players and TV audiences but combining the two leagues could go either way. The 2020 MLS season is made up of 26 clubs, with it set to increase to 30 by 2022, whilst Mexico’s top flight has 18. Demoting a number of teams would surely see job cuts. It would also be interesting to see how many teams each country would be allowed to enter and how promotion/relegation works between the two countries. MLS doesn’t currently have any promotion/relegation, similar to America’s other major leagues across their sports – the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.
The MLS also has a draft system and a salary cap whilst Mexican clubs do transfers the European way. Ultimately, any merger will all come down to money. Could the MLS make more profit this way?
A North American Super League would be a groundbreaking concept, with no other soccer league in the world doing anything like it. The English divisions do have the odd club from Wales involved, whilst AS Monaco compete in France’s Ligue 1 and Liechtenstein’s FC Vaduz compete in Switzerland, but there’s nothing as significant as this prospect has the potential to be.
In terms of current strength of the two nations, Liga MX clubs combine for 35 of the 56 CONCACAF Champions League titles over the years, whilst MLS clubs have won just two – DC United in 1998 and LA Galaxy in 2000. Not since Costa Rican side Saprissa in 2005 have a club from outside Mexico won North America’s biggest club cup competition.
Travel would be a potential roadblock – perhaps not so much for the teams in the USA, who travel a fair distance for each of their away league fixtures as it is. Trips to Mexico would easily surpass 1,000 miles – not ideal for fans by any stretch of the imagination.
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