A combined Champions League-style competition that would feature 64 clubs from both CONCACAF, the confederation of North and Central America and the Caribbean, and CONMEBOL, the confederation of South America, has been proposed by Riccardo Silva, the co-founder and president of international media rights company MP & Silva.
According to a report by Sports Business Daily, Silva believes the “Americas Champions League” (ACL), which would unite Copa Libertadores, South America’s current continental competition, and the much smaller CONCACAF Champions League, would not only raise the bar (inter)continental competition in the Western Hemisphere, but that it would also be extremely lucrative for all parties involved — projections call for more than $500 million of revenue through television and marketing rights, as well as $440 million of prize money to be handed out, with $30 million going to the winner.
While there is no set timetable for the launch of such a tournament, Silva says work already has started. MP & Silva has consulted and met with many of the largest clubs in South America and has received pledges of support, including from Corinthians and Flamengo, as well as many of the other top-tier clubs in Brazil and Uruguay. The firm also has met with South American broadcasters about the idea.
They plan on pursuing North America next, planning outreach to U.S. Soccer, MLS and Liga MX.
To that end, they have brought on former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a senior adviser to the project.
For CONCACAF sides, the ACL makes some kind of sense — in that the reported payouts are massive increases on what they make from the CCL — until you realize that it’s an 18.5-hour flight from Vancouver, Cananda, home of the Vancouver Whitecaps, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, home of South American giants like Boca Juniors and River Plate.
Logistically, the ACL would be nigh impossible to coordinate. To play an ACL game in the middle of Argentina on a Wednesday night, a team in the Pacific Northwest would legitimately need a bye week from MLS action the weekends before and after their South American excursion. MLS roster rules, which currently limit teams to 28 senior team players at a given time, would need to be massively altered for teams to build the necessary depth to compete on multiple fronts without being embarrassed. There’s also the issue of MLS’s salary cap, which stands at just $3.49 million in 2015.
For CONMEBOL clubs, the ACL makes almost no sense. Coba Libertadores is already a highly respected, lucrative tournament that needs very little assistance to realize further growth. In fact, Copa Libertadores, in its current state, would actually be worsened by the inclusion of CONCACAF teams.
In the end, big money talks louder than little things like sense and logic, so let’s not say the ACL will never happen. Let’s just say it’s going to take some serious figuring out to make it happen, which makes it highly unlikely.