Just in case you were starting to think there couldn’t possibly be more competitions added to the MLS schedule, it looks like we’ll be getting another after Concacaf and CONMEBOL announced a “strategic partnership” on Friday.
Most of the headlines for the announcement are reserved for the expanded 2024 Copa America that will now be played in the United States and include six Concacaf nations. It’s a particularly important opportunity for the USA, Canada and Mexico, all of whom are expected to receive automatic bids into the 2026 World Cup and will be in desperate need of meaningful matches until then. There’s also a chance that some of these games get played in Seattle, as we hosted two group stage games and a knockout round match when the Copa America Centenario was played in the United States in 2016.
Similarly, the 2024 W Gold Cup will also be expanded to include some of South America’s top women’s teams.
But the bit of news that might be most relevant to Seattle Sounders fans is the creation of a new club tournament that will pit the top teams in Concacaf against the top teams in CONMEBOL. It sounds like the details of this tournament are still being finalized, but it will be a “final four”-style competition with two teams from each federation that qualifies through existing competitions. From Concacaf that could mean something like the two finalists from their Champions League or possibly the winners of that and Leagues Cup.
While that likely only adds 2-4 games to any team’s calendar, it’s just another competition that will need to be fit into a schedule that now promises to include 34 MLS regular season matches; at least two and up to seven Leagues Cup matches; and at least one and up to six U.S. Open Cup games. The most successful teams could also play as many as eight Concacaf Champions League games; a still undetermined number of playoff games; up to three Club World Cup matches; and even a Campeones Cup match. All told, every MLS team will play at least 37 matches and most will probably play anywhere between 40-65 matches. That’s basically on par with the top European teams.
Still, there’s good reason for MLS to want to play in a showcase tournament like this against some of South America’s best teams. The top clubs in Brazil and Argentina, especially, have massive fanbases, even in the United States where this tournament will likely be held. While any one of these things would likely be a tectonic shift on its own, taken together you can see how the Americas could potentially become competitive with Europe.