The soccer news starts with that Liga MX and MLS sort of rumor. Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla mentioned the potential of a Liga MX and MLS merger following the North American hosted 2026 World Cup. From there, the discussion in American soccer quickly and predictably moved to the technical details. MLS's insistence on single-entity, the promotion and relegation issue with locked leagues, and so on. Fair enough when we're talking about something based on a brief comment by one league executive and a follow-up MLS statement that confirmed they recognize people say things that may or may not happen in this world we all inhabit.
Right now, the concept seems to be so nascent as to border on silly. There could be a joint league in 2026. Unless both parties are actively working towards that joint league, who really knows?
It doesn't help that the president of Liga MX is the person who mentioned it. That adds weight, even if all Bonilla really said was "it's a possibility." Again, so are a lot of things that might end up making more sense than merging Liga MX and MLS. He said that too. "We think this opportunity with the World Cup in 2026 opens the door for us to make a lot of things different and better."
The comments came at a soccer conference in London, the Leaders Sports Business Summit, that's in the news today for Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck's comments on enforcing financial parity. The setting tends to lead to executives freelancing on ideas that might have needed the helping hand of their media relations professionals. With that in mind, drawing sharp conclusions from these statements is a bit of a reach.
Still, both what Bonilla and Buck said speak to the same fundamental issue. Bonilla identified it broadly, saying "The main idea is that we have to grow together to compete. If not, there is only going to be the rich guys in Europe and the rest of the world."
Buck is an American lawyer at the top of a super club but well aware that the super clubs have their own issues. UEFA trying to impose economic parity is a big one. Buck isn't a fan. "So I am not, as a general proposition, in favor of dumbing down the large clubs in order to make all clubs the great unwashed. They have done that in the US over the last 20 years and it has been to the detriment particularly of baseball... I just don’t think it works for the long term."
What's as interesting about Buck's comments is putting a number on the super clubs at "10 or 12" putting it at a dozen ten years from now. Those clubs already have an outsized influence globally, not just in Europe. What they want has more to do with the immediate future of world soccer than the governing bodies would prefer.
ESPN's Mark Ogden picks up the rumors that Manchester United is looking to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic in January. The Daily Mail's Ian Herbert with Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham owner Shahid Khan and the future of Wembley Stadium.
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