As we know by this point, the Ascenso MX has ceased to exist and as of now, has officially been renamed “Liga de Desarrollo”, which main function will be to help develop players that are under the age of 23, an age which by the way, is too old for a pro soccer debut. Players that make it in the sport, usually debut by 18 or 19, maybe 20 at the most. One can’t help but question what the development teams each club have installed have been for; each team is required by rule to field an under-20, under-17, and under-15 squad which has the ONLY intention of developing players, so this new development league is for…??? But I digress.
All of that said, there has been a rumor circulating for at least all of 2020, that says that Liga MX and MLS have been planning a merger at some point down the road, specifically following the 2026 World Cup which is to take place in USA, Mexico, and Canada. And I don’t mean like the Leagues Cup which took place for the first time this past July, where 4 teams from each league competed for a trophy which ultimately means nothing. I’m talking about merging both leagues as we know them, to make one 50-team league (30 from MLS, 20 from Liga MX), with a possibility for a larger number of teams if MLS continues to increase expansion teams. No other top-flight soccer league in the world has even close to as many teams.
As reported by ESPN’s Tom Marshall, Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla and MLS commissioner Don Garber have both expressed positive opinions on the possibility. According to Marshall, Bonilla stated, “A huge success for sports in the United States and a huge success for football in Mexico”. If you’re wondering what MLS’s Garber had to say, he sounded just as enthused; the “ultimate dream” is “a league that is combined in some way.” Can’t get any clearer than that.
So, with that out of the way, the question now becomes, could a 50-team league really work? Followed by other questions. How many teams make the playoffs? What would be the style of competition? Just to name a couple. When it comes to this last question, we could have a couple winning answers.
ESPN’s Tom Marshall mentions Baseball in the USA working as inspiration for this merger. Specifically, the interleague play that we see between American and National League teams in the MLB. Could that work? Each team from one country plays a handful of teams from the other country, emulating the exact MLB style of interleague play? It definitely sounds plausible.
Another option could be the NFL style of play, where each team plays a group of teams from another division in the opposite conference, while you play against most teams in your own conference, with the difference that in this case, each conference would be the countries. It is for sure another possible style that could be implemented.
But as you can see, these are the initial planning stages and there is still much road ahead to really grounding this project and making it a reality in 5-6 years. And just as the disappearance of promotion and relegation rumors began to whirl a few years back, it ultimately became a reality. And as we now begin to hear rumors about this two-league merger, one can’t help but pay attention and realize they are here for a reason. And when both league commissioners are on record sounding as excited as Bonilla and Garber do, the word “rumor” all of a sudden seems to fall way short.
This just goes to show, for all doubters and deniers out there, where there is a will, there is way.