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MLS/Liga MX Leagues Cup - Meaningful or Simply a Distraction ... ?

Does the new tournament serve a purpose other than to generate cash and help Mexican conditioning as their Apertura season begins?

MLS: Champions League-Tigres UANL at Houston Dynamo
Mauro Manotas of Houston Dynamo takes on Luis Rodriguez of Tigres, during the knock-out stages in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A cash-grab, a training warm-up for the Mexicans, or an attempt to establish a serious new North American international club tournament?

If the inaugural 2019 edition is anything to go by, then the answers would be; yes, yes and no.

For although there was a clear qualifying criteria set out to determine the four Mexican representatives, MLS simply hand-picked their’s. You wonder how they reached the conclusion that it should be Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.

If it’s a spectacle they’re after, there should be no problem filling LA Galaxy, or the BBVA Compass Stadium with the help of Mexican posteriors on seats, and even Real Salt Lake should be ok, but how did MLS come up with Chicago Fire when their Empty-SeatGeek, Bridgeview Stadium consistently attracts the lowest attendance figures in the league? Even then figures are inflated, probably by numbers of season-ticket holders who just don’t bother turning up.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Chicago Fire
Rarely a problem finding a seat at the SeatGeek Stadium, Bridgeview, Illinois.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Mexican Approach?
The Mexicans will face similar challenges to what MLS clubs do in the Champions League, in that they will be only one game into their Apertura season when Leagues Cup hostilities begin. Does this mean they will simply use the fixtures as sharpening up exercises in preparation for early season Liga MX activity?

Format -
Then there’s the format. All games are straight knock-out, only one match, and the US clubs are ALWAYS at home, except if the bracket throws them (or two Mexican sides) against each other, in which case and the games will be in either BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston or Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles.

The final is already scheduled for September 18 at the 36,800 capacity, Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

All seems a little ‘crammed-in’ and hastily arranged with a shabby unbalanced format. Frankly, it lacks credibility if it’s meant to be a serious competition.

Soccer: Iceland vs Mexico
Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas will host the inaugural final on September 18.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

2020 -
But then you look at the plans for next year, when there will be 16 participating clubs, determined through a proper qualifying process. It looks potentially like a copy of UEFA’s Europa League, a competition for those clubs filling the places just outside of Champions’ League qualification. And so it starts to take shape, although we still don’t know if next year’s format will include two-legged ties, or continue with a straight one-off knock-out.

Next year, the eight MLS clubs that do not qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League - the top four in each MLS association after the 2019 regular season - will be invited into the competition.

On the Mexican side, the eight teams of the Liga MX will be the champions of the 2019 and 2020 Clausura tournaments, the winner of the Copa MX 2019-2020 and the five other top ranked teams of the championship of the same season covering the Apertura and Clausura tournaments.

It still leaves question-marks however. Should organizers opt to play ties over two legs, then a club could potentially add 8 games to its schedule at a very critical period in the season. We’ve see the havoc caused by the plethora of international tournaments arriving slap-bang in the middle of MLS seasons before and possibly none more so than this year.

Some clubs were unable to field a full complement of 18 players for MLS games such were the demands upon playing resources, mainly through international commitments.

It seems clear the more successful MLS clubs will need to enlarge squads to contend with the increase in games a new tournament would bring.

An additional international competition is no bad thing, but it needs to co-exist in such a way that already strained playing resources are not still further diluted across it and other already established leagues and competitions.

Fans and the sport of soccer in North America at least deserve this.


The quarter-final match-ups in the new tournament, scheduled for 23/24 July are as follows -

Chicago Fire v Cruz Azul
LA Galaxy v Club Tijuana
Houston Dynamo v Club America
Real Salt Lake v Tigres UNAL

Poll

What do you think of the new international competition, The Leagues Cup?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Not needed - it’s merely a meaningless cash-grab
    (5 votes)
  • 43%
    Great concept for future years, but no room for it in the current calendar
    (7 votes)
  • 25%
    Great idea - Go for it now!
    (4 votes)
16 votes total Vote Now