A combined North American professional soccer league could be one outcome of the 2026 World Cup, according to Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla.
Canada, Mexico, and the United States’ united 2026 World Cup bid was accepted earlier this year, clearing the way for the three nations to become the first joint hosts of the event since Japan and South Korea in 2002. Notably, the planning for the World Cup comes at a point where Liga MX and MLS–which has teams in the United States and Canada–are strengthening their partnership, while the Canadian Premier League will debut in 2019 as a Tier 1 professional soccer circuit.
For the coming the years, the three countries will remain focused on planning for the 2026 World Cup, but their partnership could grow beyond the event. In comments on Wednesday, Bonilla suggested that a North American league could be possible. While it could mark a continuation of any momentum gained from the World Cup, Bonilla noted that a combined circuit may be able to better compete with top European leagues. More from Reuters:
However, revenues for global TV rights and sponsorship across north America pale in comparison to the top leagues of Europe. Bonilla believes that is something that could be changed with a new combined continental top-flight division.
“It’s a possibility, a North American league. We have to determine how and see the pros and cons but I think that’s a way to grow and to compete again,” Bonilla told reporters at the Leaders summit at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium.
“If we can make a World Cup then we can make a north American league or a north American cup. 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.”
“We think this opportunity with the World Cup in 2026 opens the door for us to make a lot of things different and better,” he added.
As noted, MLS and Liga MX have strengthened their bond in recent years. The most notable development of that is the 2018 launch of the annual Campeones Cup–a contest between the reigning champions in each league.
Comments from MLS did not specifically address its interest or the feasibility of a combined North American soccer league, but the circuit emphasized that it is looking for ways to bolster its partnership with Liga MX. More from ESPN FC:
Reached by ESPN FC for comment, MLS MLS Executive Vice President of Communications Dan Courtemanche said the league is excited to further its partnership with Liga MX.
“In March, Major League Soccer entered into a formal partnership with Liga MX, and last month we held our inaugural Campeones Cup between Toronto FC and Tigres,” Courtemanche said.
“We have been discussing with Liga MX additional ways we can collaborate on and off the field, and we are excited about the future opportunities that exist between our two leagues.”
Keep in mind that the idea of a combined league is very much a hypothetical at this point, and could be years away from being developed if it does become a reality. Planning for the 2026 World Cup will be a years-long process, and the leagues across the three countries figure to evolve over that period. However, the partnership between Liga MX and MLS is one that seems to have satisfied both leagues thus far, and it could open the door for more developments in the years to come.
Image of MLS action courtesy Real Salt Lake.
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