AC Milan exec: MLS-Liga MX merger could work

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AC Milan executive and former Major League Soccer deputy commissioner Ivan Gazidis said that a merger between MLS and Liga MX is something that should be considered.

Gazidis helped launch MLS in 1996 and believes that a merger between the top flights of the United States and Mexico would be beneficial for the sport’s growth.

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“I’ve always thought that it needs to be looked at,” Gazidis told ESPN. “A league that encompasses North America including Mexico is something that would be a tremendous driver of interest.”

The relationship between MLS and Liga MX has intensified following the March 2018 announcement of a strategic partnership between the two, much more so than during the SuperLiga summer tournament that was held between 2007 and 2010. It has so far given rise to the birth of Campeones Cup, a one-off game featuring the MLS champion and Liga MX’s Campeon de Campeones, and the Leagues Cup, which featured four teams from each side in a neutral-site tournament in Las Vegas.

An All-Star game between the two leagues was planned for the summer before being called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“MLS has more flexibility, probably because they don’t have the kind of history and established structures that exist in European football and that are so difficult to change. Obviously the CONCACAF Champions League already exists, but this could be developed in different ways and the most extreme would be a merger of the leagues,” Gazidis added.

“I don’t know if that’s the answer but there is a tremendous opportunity in a transnational competition.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber and Liga MX head Enrique Bonilla have repeatedly hinted at increased collaboration but have stopped short of openly supporting a joint league.

Gazidis served as MLS deputy commissioner from 2001-2008, where he then became chief executive at Arsenal. He departed the London club for AC Milan in 2018. He added that he has been impressed with the growth of the sport in U.S. and especially MLS.

“I think it’s good that soccer in the U.S. is held to a higher standard but sometimes it’s also healthy to step back and look how far it has come,” he added.

“Today MLS is a phenomenal case study for a really modern, forward-looking league, not afraid of change. With the tools available to it, it has done an incredible job. It has amazing stadiums, a game that is growing at a tremendous pace, a real relevance, very progressive attitudes, engaged ownership and a healthy financial foundation… these things are extraordinary given where we started back in 1994.

“I remember trying to get investors and what a struggle it was…the [1994] World Cup was two weeks away and people were convinced even then that the stands would be empty. And now look at it.”