Soccer Gets a New Championship to Crown North America's Best

(Bloomberg) -- North America’s two biggest soccer leagues are partnering on a new championship, the Campeones Cup, to crown the continent’s top club team and nurture a budding rivalry.

The joint venture between Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX is part of a wider alliance between the two leagues aimed at building excitement around the region’s club scene, which lags behind that of Europe. The Campeones Cup is also a new opportunity to sell tickets, sponsorships and media rights.

The partnership involves other collaborations, including a future MLS All-Star Game with players from both leagues, and the Liga MX Under-20 team as the annual opponent in the MLS Homegrown Game. The two sides will also share marketing expertise gained in their home countries to help each grow its fan base in the other’s traditional stronghold. “Together, we have a vision to elevate the popularity of our game to even higher levels in North America,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

The Campeones Cup will happen outside of the official continental club championship hosted by the region’s governing body, Concacaf. The Concacaf Champions League, which includes clubs from Central America and the Caribbean, has featured a Mexican champion in each of the past 12 years. That said, all three MLS teams remaining in the 2018 tournament beat their Mexican opponents in last week’s series openers, prompting Mexican newspaper Record to run a headline inspired by an English-butchering online meme: “Es Insolting & Unacceptabol.

That’s exactly the kind of rivalry the two leagues are trying to stoke. For MLS it might also be a chance to gain inroads with Hispanic aficionados in America who mostly follow Liga MX. If you factor in both English- and Spanish-language telecasts, the Mexican league is the most-watched domestic league in the U.S., outdrawing MLS and the English Premier League.

There are already business ties between soccer interests in the U.S. and Mexico. Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of MLS, manages the Mexican soccer federation’s U.S.-based matches. The two countries, along with Canada, are also in the middle of a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

The first Campeones Cup will be held Sept. 19 in Toronto, where MLS champion Toronto FC will host the Liga MX champion. Since the Mexican league has two titles each year, those teams (Tigres UANL and this spring’s winner) will square off for the right to represent the league in Toronto.

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