MLS & LIGA MX: THE ‘BEST (SOCCER) LEAGUE IN THE WORLD’ FORMING SOON?

MLS & LIGA MX: THE ‘BEST (SOCCER) LEAGUE IN THE WORLD’ FORMING SOON?

This year’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game (9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday on FS1) is a United States-Mexico rivalry, pitting the best players from MLS against the finest that Liga MX, the preeminent competition south of the border, has to offer.

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Yet if you take 90 minutes of on-field hostility out of the equation, the two leagues are actually on the same side in a growing multitude of ways.

Back in March, FIFA president Gianni Infantino suggested that a future that sees MLS and Liga MX join forces to create a regional super league would be not only welcomed by the world’s governing body but also firmly positioned to establish itself as perhaps the greatest soccer competition on the planet.

“I think the potential in the United States and Mexico is enormous, each country by itself,” Infantino said. “But, of course, if you could bring those two together, that would be incredible, and that could quite well be the best league in the world.”

Inevitably, the buildup to this week’s matchup, in which the MLS All-Stars and Liga MX All-Stars duke it out at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, has only stoked the rumors further, and neither MLS commissioner Don Garber nor various Mexican soccer executives have done much to douse the flames.

“If it makes sense at the right time, then we’ll take that step,” Garber told the Los Angeles Times.

Talk of such collaborations in soccer are as old as time, but none has really come to full fruition. In April, a European Super League featuring 15 of that continent’s wealthiest teams looked set to become a reality. However, it lasted only an instant, as a passionate display of collective fan outrage caused the idea to become a nonstarter.

However, a U.S.-Mexico alliance, plus the Canadian teams already in MLS, would have some real legs. For a start, early indications show that fans would firmly get behind it, as long as the shift is handled the right way.

There would be two-way benefits. Liga MX is desperate to gain a further foothold in the U.S. market, while MLS looks enviously at the TV ratings of the Mexican games, which average 474,000 for regular-season matchups in the U.S. alone.

“There is no smoke without fire,” FOX Sports soccer analyst Alexi Lalas told me via telephone. “No one is doing anything to dissuade the rumors and talk about the possibilities. That says a lot. Both of these businesses look at each other longingly in different ways. They [could] both complete each other. With the ramp-up toward the 2026 World Cup, it may make sense.”

There would, of course, be some logistical headaches to overcome. MLS has 27 teams and is slated to increase that figure to 30 within a few years. Liga MX has 18, with a long-standing tradition of promotion and relegation, which it put on hold due to the financial concerns spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One thought is that a combined, cross-border league would need to have promotion and relegation to be workable. Other concepts involve an elite “super-league” system featuring the best of both leagues and operating outside the existing structures.

FOX Sports soccer writer Doug McIntyre told me via text message that he can foresee an all-encompassing, 48-team competition, perhaps with splits into regional divisions that allow old rivalries to remain intact.

In real terms, the travel would not be so bad. Considering that MLS already requires Vancouver and Miami to visit each other, journeys to Mexico City could actually shave some flying time off the schedule for many teams.

What is beyond dispute is that it could create a financial boon that would allow the combined league’s teams to compete for the best talent alongside the behemoths of European soccer. It might not happen immediately, but a scenario like that imagined by Infantino could certainly be in the cards eventually.

“I would be excited for it,” Lalas added. “There is the historic ingrained competition between the two countries that would automatically make it something interesting to a lot of people.

“It would be something significant, not just in this region but potentially on a worldwide scale.”

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

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