North American merger will broaden appeal and generate revenue, says Infantino

Atlanta United FC celebrate winning the 2018 MLS Championship

A potential merger between North America’s two biggest football leagues – Mexico’s Liga MX and the US’ Major League Soccer (MLS) – has been supported by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

The proposal has been on the table for some time, and with the region set to host the 2026 World Cup – along with Canada – Infantino believes the time is right to solidify plans.

Football’s international authorities are hopeful that the merger could boost the appeal of club level competition outside of its European heartland, as FIFA searches for new sources of revenue in order to support its post-pandemic recovery ambitions.

Speaking at an online news conference, Infantino stated: “I think the potential in the United States and Mexico is enormous, each country by itself. But of course if you could bring those two together that would be incredible and that could quite well be the best league in the world.

“Any discussion about organising such a competition, of course respecting the rules of member associations and FIFA and with the agreement of all stakeholders, any discussion in that respect, is interesting and we see that in a positive light.”

The revelation coincided with the release of FIFA’s financial reports, which showed that the global body suffered a net loss of $368 million in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Total expenses for the full year amounted to $1.04 billion, of which $270.5 million was attributed to the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan, which constituted $186 million in grants to member associations, $72.5 million in support to the women’s game and $12 million in confederation grants.

These expenses were the primary driver behind a 65% revenue drop to $266.5 million when compared to the 2019 figure of $765.6 million.

The greatest source of income for the organisation has, for the first time in its history, come from licencing rights, due to the absence of ticket-holding fans in stadiums. Licensing rights, covering marks and branding, contributed $158.8 million.

In addition, FIFA is predicting a further drop in revenues by $120 million up until the 2022 World Cup, again attributing these losses to the financial impacts of the ongoing global pandemic.

However, the organisation’s total loss for 2020 was $778 million – a slight improvement on the $794 million predicted in June of last year. Additionally, the governing body expects to reach its overall revenue target of $6.44 billion for the 2019-2022 cycle, despite the setbacks of the past year.

FIFA’s announcement follows the release of the German Bundesliga’s financial reports earlier this month. The German top-flight league has also suffered the consequences of the pandemic, recording a 5.4% drop in revenue, whilst the second-flight 2. Bundesliga saw its total income fall by 7.2%.

Spain’s La Liga also reported difficulties, with clubs across the top two leagues losing a total of €2.013 billion since March of 2020, driven by a postponement of all activity followed by matches played behind closed doors.