Could a merger between the MLS and Liga MX soon form "the best league in the world?"
That's what FIFA President Gianni Infantino said last week. It's the first time that FIFA has recognized the potential of such a merger and viewed it "in a positive light."
On Thursday, Mexico's football federation President Yon de Luisa, spurred on by Infantino's comments, hinted that Liga MX may be interested as well. The prospect, which has been discussed by various MLS leaders since at least 2018, would merge two of North America's biggest leagues. Teams would span from southern Mexico to Montreal, Canada.
The project would be years away, but there are some pretty real advantages to a North American "super league." Here's a few reasons why the merger might just happen.
1. Supportive leadership
MLS Commissioner Don Garber (MLS Buzz/Twitter)
As said before, FIFA President Infantino is already on board. In his statement, Infantino said that he saw North America as an up-and-coming force in soccer.
"We see the potential in North America—the economic potential and the potential in footballing terms," Infantino said. "I trust them to make the best decisions in that regard."
A week later, De Luisa gave positive remarks on the super merger, although he didn't say anything concrete about combining the leagues.
"Regarding the comments made by Infantino, I believe it is a reflection of what we've been working on... in the last few years," De Luisa said. "In 2018, when we presented (the World Cup bid), we made that happen with a lot of work, a lot of synergy and understanding that we do better when we're together as opposed to apart."
MLS officials have teased North American fans for a few years now with scattered rumors on the possible merger.
In December, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made it clear that while there will be no jumbo league on the continent for many years, it's a prospect they're definitely considering.
"Could there ever be a moment where the leagues come together in a more formal way than just playing with interleague play? Perhaps," Garber told ESPN. "But it's a long way away."
2. Past, current collaboration
A merger would be difficult if the two leagues hadn't communicated in the past. Luckily, both the MLS and Liga MX are doing a lot of teamwork lately.
Most recently, the two launched the Leagues Cup, an annual tournament that features the two best teams from each conference in both leagues. The cup began in 2019, paused in 2020 due to the pandemic and will start up in August of this year.
The Campeones Cup is another example of tri-nation collaboration. In late September, 2020 MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew SC will face off with Liga MX's champions, hosted in the U.S.
Regarding the cups, Liga MX's Executive President Mikel Arriola said he recognizes that a significant number of Liga MX fans are in the U.S. (another good reason for a merger.)
"The announcement regarding the return of Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup is crucial for the project to internationalize Liga MX," Arriola said. "We know that North America has a large number of fans, and over 30% on average of the audience for our league's games comes from the United States, which speaks to the importance of getting closer to our fanbase in the northern region of the continent."
Another significant move between all North American countries was the successful bid for the 2026 World Cup. Mexico, Canada and the U.S. collaborated back in 2018 to bring the world's biggest soccer stage to the continent with the "United 2026" bid, which beat out Morocco as the site for the event. It's the first time that three countries will host the World Cup in just another showcase of North American solidarity.
3. 2026 World Cup
Because of the World Cup, all eyes are on North America for the first time in a long time. More than half the world regularly tunes in to the FIFA World Cup, and hosting such a large-scale event is sure to bring attention to U.S. and Mexican soccer.
The U.S. will host 60 of the cup's 80 matches, while Canada and Mexico will each host 10. Aside from putting the nations' soccer on a global stage, the cup is giving North American leagues the spotlight from all kinds of FIFA higher-ups, including Infantino.
FIFA used to be against international leagues, but they've been letting up since 2016, according to ESPN. As the MLS begins to be taken seriously, there's great potential that FIFA could give the merger a green light after the World Cup.
4. Money, prestige, competition
(Futebol Intl FC/Twitter)
Liga MX is a North American and global giant already—It's the fourth most attended league in the world.
The MLS may seem like an infant next to one of the America's most powerful leagues, but it has financial backing where it lacks in prestige.
Seventeen MLS clubs were put into Soccerex's Football Finance 100, an index of the sports' most financially-rich teams, while only three Liga MX clubs were up to par.
As the MLS finally brings some star talent and shakes off its image as a retirement home for aging stars, both the MLS and Liga MX could benefit from the merger.
5. Rivalry turned profit
As stated before, more than 30% of Liga MX's fan base is in America. In fact, more Americans tune into Liga MX than to the MLS itself. This shared customer base has caused tension in the past as each competes for more influence, but a merger would solve these issues.
With attention coming in from the biggest names in soccer, every North American superfan's fantasy may not be too far off.
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Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”
We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.
This restaurant claims to have the most authentic South Indian food, and from what I've heard, the claims might be true! Their menu features the traditional South Indian dishes of Idlis, Vadas, a variety of Dosas, and more.
If you're looking for an Indian and Tex-Mex fusion cozy restaurant, then look no further! Nasha on East 7th Street prides itself on its specialty margaritas, Tikka con Queso, Biryani, and more creative dishes!