CONCACAF football plans drastic changes with the intention of being more competitive globally
Liga MX and Major League Soccer could reach an agreement and merge into a single championship. / Photo: Pixabay
LatinamericanPost| Luis Angel Hernández Liborio
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The soccer model of the MLS has made this sport grow in the United States, and although it has not yet positioned itself among the best leagues in the world at a sports level, at an economic level it has become increasingly attractive. Its natural competition is Liga MX, whose financial stability makes it one of the most profitable on the continent. According to ESPN, both leagues will take the 2026 World Cup as a pretext to merge and become one of the most competitive in the world.
MLS is almost done
Major League Soccer is the first division of American football that includes clubs from Canada, for its 25th season (2020) twenty-six teams will be in competition (or will be after the contingency), this year marks the debut of Inter Miami FC and Nashville. But MLS has a clear goal: reaching thirty clubs, according to MARCA in 2021, the twenty-seven franchise will debut, while the last three franchises could already be competing in 2022.
Most of the world's leagues have an average of 20 teams fighting for the title, but MLS has thought big, it could not otherwise be in the largest economy on the planet that is increasingly interested in football. Thirty clubs is a great goal and they will achieve it in less than thirty years of the league's existence, the economic strength of their clubs and of the league itself have allowed them to have a successful business model that they have replicated throughout the country and even in Canada.
The only real competition for MLS within CONCACAF is the Mexican league, with which it has almost managed to catch up. Before the Mexicans kept everything, now it is increasingly difficult for them to compete with the Americans both at club and national team level. The MLS has also been able to gradually leave behind its image as a "retirement league" of great stars such as the Middle East and China leagues. According to TUDN in 2018 the American league set its sights on the South American promises more than in the stars on the verge of retirement, with the intention of improving their level.
¡El Campeón de la MLS le gana al Campeón de la Liga MX!— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) August 15, 2019
Atlanta United se lleva la Campeones Cup
Las distancias se han acortado en el futbol pic.twitter.com/kQOdnyOMUi
Its consistency as a league and its business model learned from other successful leagues such as the NFL and the NBA have allowed it to put itself on the world map, with its development threatening the supremacy of European and South American football in the medium and long term, for now everything indicates that in the short term there will be a merger with Liga MX, which is also preparing for change.
Liga MX is already preparing the ground
Mexican soccer has been constantly restructuring in the last decade, it has gone from being the regional power (in CONCACAF) to having a serious competitor in the United States. The problem for Mexico is that the MLS is gaining more and more prominence inside and outside the region, many young people or stars prefer to play in the United States than in its neighbor to the south. If previously no Central American or Caribbean country could compete with Mexico's resources and infrastructure, the American league came to put a stop to it and to equalize the conditions for both countries.
It seems that Mexico has preferred to heed the phrase "If you can't beat the enemy, join him" with the possible merger of both leagues planned for 2026, the year in which the United States, Canada and Mexico receive the World Cup together. According to AS, Liga MX seeks to reach twenty teams (currently it has eighteen) so that together with the thirty in MLS, a super league of fifty teams is built.
Mexico has already taken its first steps, as announced by Fútbol Total on April 17, the disappearance of the Ascenso MX league, the second most important soccer league in the country that gave access to Liga MX, was announced. With this, the promotion and descent will be eliminated for five years, it has been officially said that the intention is to restructure the financial and sports problems of the Ascenso MX clubs, although it also transcended the intention that the Liga MX be merged with the MLS . In the American league there is no relegation and now in Liga MX neither, it seems that the entire restructuring prepares the way for the integration of the two competitions into one.
What are the challenges of the possible merger?
Distance is one of the biggest challenges in creating a super league that integrates Mexico, the United States and Canada, a system of competition by conference, like that of the MLS, could lessen the problem. If playing as in Liga MX, the movements will be brutal, for example the distance between Puebla, where the team furthest south in the Mexican league plays, to Vancouver, the farthest north of the MLS, is almost 4,900 km .
In this same aspect the fan would be the most affected, because in addition to the great distance and how expensive it would be to follow his team he also faces visa problems. Mexicans require a mandatory visa to enter the United States and an ETA to enter Canada, integrating the leagues will require efforts that go beyond economics and sports. On the other hand, one of the advantages of the possible merger is that FIFA declared last December, through its leader, that they viewed the merger of some minor leagues as the only option to achieve its development, according to Europe Press.
Finally, in Mexico the creation of the Mexican Football League was announced in January, a parallel league, foreign to the Liga MX, which will have three divisions and twenty teams throughout the country in the medium term. It is not yet affiliated with FEMEXFUT or FIFA, so now it does not appear to pose any threat to Liga MX, but its potential growth in the medium or long term could change things.