Could Liga MX and MLS merge? What North American soccer super league could look like

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As we move gradually towards the 2026 World Cup, MLS and Liga MX are working as closely as ever.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada are bracing for what will certainly be a tipping point for American soccer and, in the run up to that moment, we've seen the leagues more united than ever before.

It began with the introduction of the Campeones Cup, a clash between each league's champions in a two-legged battle. Then came the Leagues Cup, a mini-tournament featuring teams from the two leagues.

And, once the two leagues return to some normality following the coronavirus outbreak in 2021, fans of MLS and Liga MX will also look ahead to the revamped All-Star game, which will pit the top players in each competition against one another for the first time ever.

In the lead up to 2026, North American soccer has never been more unified. Players have started to routinely jump from Liga MX to MLS, and vice-versa, with the relationships between all three countries never stronger.

And, because of those relationships, rumors persist over an eventual unified North American super league, one that would certainly provide plenty of questions to go with a few answers.

Will Liga MX & MLS merge?

MLS commissioner Don Garber and Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla have talked up the possibility of a merger in the past, and the concept has been revived in 2020.

A report from ESPN stated that negotiations for a merger would end up producing a competition featuring 50 teams, 30 from MLS and 20 from Liga MX. However it remains unclear if and when it will happen.

The 30 teams from MLS are secure, with Charlotte, Austin, St. Louis and Sacramento set to round off expansion when they join the league in the coming years. Liga MX, meanwhile, would have to promote two teams from the second division to meet that 20-team mark before almost certainly abandoning promotion/relegation forever.

What are the benefits of a Liga MX-MLS Super League?

On the surface, it's easy to see the positives of a Liga MX-MLS merger. As a whole, a combined Mexican-American-Canadian league would jump up a level, making it one of the best leagues in the region while marching towards the level of Europe.

Mexican teams would make further inroads into the U.S., where Liga MX remains the most-watched league, while MLS sides would benefit from the boost of playing the likes of Chivas, Tigres and Club America.

MLS has struggled to make progress when it comes to drawing on TV, while Liga MX has struggled to find the relative stability of their northern neighbors' single-entity structure. America has the money, Mexico has the quality and history. It's a match made in heaven.

Javier Hernandez LA Galaxy 2020

And it's not totally unprecedented. American sports have been built on league mergers.

The NFL competed with the AFL before the two leagues merged in 1966. In baseball, the National League and American League initially started as separate entities before uniting despite maintaining different rules of play. The NBA absorbed teams from the ABA in the 1970s at a time where the sport was closer to dying off than anything.

This, obviously, would be a different animal, for a number of reasons.

Any change would have to be approved by FIFA and, ultimately, Concacaf, and the merger would likely kill off the region's Champions League. If they could negotiate admission into the Copa Libertadores, that would certainly ease that loss, but that brings up a whole different cross-federation discussion.

Would unifying behind this one super league benefit the Concacaf as a whole? Potentially. There's money to be made here and it's not hard to see that uniting behind the region's two top leagues as the best path towards competing with South America and, ultimately, Europe. 

However, in recent years, Concacaf has gone out of its way to help some of the region's lesser teams with the introduction of the Nations League and the Concacaf League. Abandoning that now would leave growing leagues in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama out to dry while halting any progress those countries have made in recent years.

What could a North American Super League look like?

A North American Super League would have to settle on an agreed structure in order to ensure a harmonious merger and, despite the various moving parts, it is viable.

The calendar would be an issue, with the league's seasons operating in different parts of the year. Would MLS adopt Liga MX's split-season schedule, or would Liga MX be forced to play through the summer on a non-European calendar as MLS does?

And then there's the travel. Vancouver is over 2,500 miles from Veracruz, and there are few trips between the two leagues that would be very fun to make. It's a major hurdle, especially for a league in MLS that still doesn't have universal charter travel. 

But there are ways to mitigate it. They could approach it in a way similar to baseball, with the two leagues competing semi-separately with limited interleague play. That would keep the travel down while allowing both leagues to keep their salary cap structure in place. Then, come playoff time, the two leagues meet and decide one champion.

Divvying up Concacaf's Club World Cup spots would then be as easy as selecting the two finalists as well as the winner of some sort of U.S. Open Cup/Copa MX/Canadian Cup hybrid or one-off game.

Even so, any merger would involve major hurdles and concessions.

MLS' single-entity structure would complicate the absorption of Liga MX teams outright. A 50-team schedule would be absolute madness, while MLS owners won't be willing to turn that 50-team league into a promotion/relegation structure any time soon.

Concacaf and FIFA would almost certainly have major questions about this sort of move, even if money does talk at the end of the day.

When could a Liga MX-MLS merger happen?

It is possible that a merger could be completed by the time the 2026 World Cup kicks off, but it's not likely.

In order for a  move this monumental to happen, it needs to be established that it is totally beneficial for all involved and, for now, that remains to be seen.

MLS and Liga MX are doing just fine on their own, and it could be argued that making this league would only dilute any progress each league has made in recent years. On the field, MLS has started to rise to Liga MX's level, while MLS' off-the-field success has caused Liga MX to rethink many of their own practices.

Whether it all happens or not, MLS and Liga MX will still be intertwined going forward. That relationship isn't going anywhere as working together truly is beneficial for all involved. But the idea of a 50-team super league might just be too grandiose and farfetched for all involved.