Any global soccer fan knows that the UEFA Champions’ League is the pinnacle of soccer competitions. It pits the champions of the biggest leagues in Europe against each other in a World Cup style tournament that moves from group stages to a knockout round, culminating in a final that can only be described as soccer’s Super Bowl. Because of the success of the Champions’ League, other federations have tried to copy it to varying degrees of success.
In the United States, MLS teams compete for spots in the CONCACAF Champions’ League, where they compete against the best clubs from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. While it doesn’t have the same pizzazz as its European counterpart, the CCL often produces some interesting matchups between MLS and Liga MX sides, and sometimes even giants from the Central American nations that represent the best soccer our continent has to offer.
Unfortunately, this competition has yet to catch on stateside, as many of the teams apart from Liga MX and MLS aren’t exactly top quality, leading to many B-sides playing serious roles in the tournament. Couple that with weird scheduling and limited broadcasting, and it’s easy to see why fans are not rushing home from work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to catch the CCL.
One competition that has seen success as a continental club competition is the Copa Libertadores, which pits the best clubs from Mexico and South America against each other in a format similar to the CCL and UCL. The “Copa Lib” is a huge hit across South America, and more than 50-plus years of history has produced some stunning results between intercontinental rivals that has really driven the rise of talent on soccer clubs across South America.
In an effort to capitalize on the popularity and success of the Copa Libertadores, Brazillian billionaire Riccardo Silva is proposing a joint venture between CONCACAF and COMNEBOL, that would combine the Copa Lib and the CCL into one America’s Champions League. The idea would be to create a competition that would rival the popularity of the UCL in the Americas by allowing the biggest South American clubs to play competitive matches in the United States and Mexico, and vice versa.
Obviously, the motivator here is money, and according to Silva, this tournament could fetch in excess of $500 million in worldwide television rights, quintupling the money brought in by the CCL and Copa Libertadores combined. Even for the largest clubs in North and South America, that extra television money could be a massive boost.
Some don’t exactly love the idea of a team like Toronto FC taking a midweek flight to Buenos Aires, only to return the next day to prepare for league play over the weekend. But with that kind of money on the table, it’ll be interesting to see how an America’s Champions’ League would affect MLS.
MLS already suffers from schedule congestion and plays through international breaks as it is. The league doesn’t need another competition. However, the introduction of the idea of an America’s Champions League highlights one important thing: the CONCACAF Champions’ League is broken. Until the United States participates in a higher quality, more legitimate continental club competition, it’s hard to imagine MLS making strides to become one of the best leagues in the world.