The length and precise linkage of polyubiquitin chains is important for their biological activity. Although other ubiquitin-like proteins have the potential to form polymeric chains their identification in vivo is challenging and their functional role is unclear. Vertebrates express three small ubiquitin-like modifiers, SUMO-1, SUMO-2, and SUMO-3. Mature SUMO-2 and SUMO-3 are nearly identical and contain an internal consensus site for sumoylation that is missing in SUMO-1. Combining state-of-the-art mass spectrometry with an "in vitro to in vivo" strategy for post-translational modifications, we provide direct evidence that SUMO-1, SUMO-2, and SUMO-3 form mixed chains in cells via the internal consensus sites for sumoylation in SUMO-2 and SUMO-3. In vitro, the chain length of SUMO polymers could be influenced by changing the relative amounts of SUMO-1 and SUMO-2. The developed methodology is generic and can be adapted for the identification of other sumoylation sites in complex samples.