Soccer is one of the biggest sports around the world and is estimated to have 3.5 billion fans globally. Even if a country has no major league to speak of domestically, you can bet people there follow big-name competition, such as the Champions League, World Cup or English Premier League. When you think of the drama and excitement that soccer delivers, it is easy to see why it is so popular.
Of course, soccer is also huge around North, Central and South America. North America, in particular, has seen a real explosion of interest in the sport in recent years. This has been helped largely by more US media interest in the game and the fact that soccer is being played more in schools. Of course, it has also been helped massively by the creation of the Major League Soccer (or MLS) domestic league for North American sides.
Soccer in Mexico also has its own top-class league, in the shape of the MLX, with which to entertain fans. This has a longer history than the MLS and is claimed by many to have the edge over it. But which one is actually better?
MLS overview and features
The MLS is a relatively new league in soccer terms. It was set up in 1993 as part of the country’s bid to host the 1994 World Cup Finals. As a result, it was not always taken very seriously. It is now regarded a lot more highly, though, and has started to attract bigger crowds. Over time, the additional work to improve the standard of the league, its facilities and its image has helped. Have some fun following the MLS action at WSN.com.
World soccer stars such as David Beckham and Steven Gerrard moving to the MLS certainly attracted millions of new fans to the league – both at home and abroad. This is perhaps the major difference now between the MLX and the MLS. The MLS is possibly a wealthier league overall and this extra money has allowed it to invest in its image and pay better wages to attract major players in its bid to become a major world soccer brand.
With plans to expand the MLS to 30 teams by 2023, it could well be the biggest league in the Americas soon – especially if it starts to poach the best players from domestic leagues such as the MLX. As Rodolfo Pizarro’s $12 million transfer to Inter Miami recently showed, this may already be happening. While this is dwarfed by top transfer sums in other leagues (like the $200 million being quoted for Mbappe to Real Madrid), it shows that the MLS is on the up.
MLX features and overview
So, where does this leave the MLX? This is a league with a long history that stretches all the way back to 1943. Although known by names other than the MLX in times gone by, it has a history and heritage that the MLS cannot match. There are currently 18 teams in the league, with sides such as Club Leon, America and Toluca attracting big followings in Mexico.
The official stats also seem to suggest that this league has an edge in terms of quality over its neighbor. It was ranked as the 10th-best league in world football from 2001 to 2010, and is 20th in the International Federation of Football History and Statistics standings. This makes it the most highly regarded domestic league in the Americas.
With an average attendance of around 25,000 per game, it attracts more fans than most MLS games. Mexican teams have also historically done better in Pan-American tournaments, such as the CONCACAF Champions League, which suggests that the teams are of a better quality than those of the MLS.
MLS vs MLX: which one wins out?
As with most things in life, there is no easy answer. It all depends on what perspective you take on each league. It is fair to say that the MLX is still of a higher quality and has more prestige attached to it, while the MLS pays better wages, has a better global media image and may be about to close the quality gap. Of course, if the mooted merger of those two leagues into one ‘superleague’ comes off, then you will not have to choose between them.