“Like most of you, we want to see our clubs continue to raise their level of play. This competition, along with the CONCACAF Champions Cup, provides another means for clubs to test themselves against regional competition.”
These words were spoken by MLS comissioner Don Garber, but no, you’re wrong, they’re not about the newly-announced Leagues Cup that starts July 23. They’re not about the Campeones Cup, either. Garber spoke these words back in 2006, about a year before the North American SuperLiga kicked off its inaugural tournament.
The SuperLiga pitted four Liga MX teams and four MLS franchises against each other in a tournament setting for the chance to win a trophy during the summer season. It started in 2007, with Pachuca beating LA Galaxy in penalties to take the gold. The next year, the New England Revolution became the first (and only) MLS club to win it when it beat Houston Dynamo in the final. After that, Tigres beat Chicago in 2009 followed by Morelia defeating the Revolution in 2010. And that was it. The tournament was then forfeited. CONCACAF wanted to focus more on the revamped CONCACAF Champions League going forward.
But now, it’s back under a new name. The Leagues Cup will feature eight MLS and Liga MX club in a knockout-style tournament that is set to begin on July 23 and conclude on September 18. For the inaugural competition, the Chicago Fire will host Cruz Azul, Houston Dynamo will host Club America, LA Galaxy will host Tijuana and Real Salt Lake will host Tigres.
Official: @MLS and @LIGABancomerMX announce Leagues Cup— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) May 29, 2019
- Starts July 23
- 4 teams from each league
- knock-out format
- All games in the USA#ligamxeng #mlshttps://t.co/I8dfVn8wRD pic.twitter.com/Sqw1MqZf1T
Now, let’s get the easiest question out of the way first. Is this necessary? No, it’s absolutely not. Garber, Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla and other CONCACAF officials say it’s to keep building the rivalry between Liga MX and the MLS.
Okay, sure. Back when the SuperLiga was around, the leagues weren’t really competitng with each other and there was virtually no rivalry.
But hang on, isn’t that, oh I don’t know, what the CONCACAF Champions League is for? For a league to hold bragging rights over other leagues, its teams have to be able to beat all other teams in the region and be crowned champions of their confederation. That’s literally the point of the Concachampions.
In its latest format, MLS clubs have never won the CCL, and Liga MX teams have won it every year since 2009. Going back further, an MLS club hasn’t been crowned the best in CONCACAF since 2000, when LA Galaxy beat Honduran club Olimpia for one of only two MLS-owned international titles.
In the past few years, though, MLS fans have complained about the Concachampions being unfair because it starts in February and catches MLS clubs in preseason mode. The MLS season doesn’t start until March meanwhile Mexican clubs have about a month of matches already under their belt.
That whole complaint just screams American exceptionalism. The world soccer calendar for club football starts in late July/August and ends in May. The MLS is one of only a few leagues in the world that run from March-December. Because of this, it’s hard to think of many reasons why the CCL would conform to the MLS’ scheduling.
Still, CONCACAF decided to respond to that issue. And what was the solution? To have a tournament that flips the script. One that catches Liga MX teams in early season mode for the tournament’s opening matches. All games will also be held in the United States, even if there’s an all-Mexican club match.
Other than a quick cash-grab that this tournament presents itself as—taking advantage of the many overzealous Mexican and Mexican-American fans in the U.S. who splurge out on the chance to see their favorite club live— it also makes it much simpler for MLS clubs to grab a win against their Mexican foes.
Let’s not forget the Campeones Cup—the match that will pit defending MLS champs Atlanta United with Mexico’s Campeon de Campeones winner (America or Tigres)—is still happening on August 14. Then there’s the rest of the preseason friendlies each club has. Scheduling is going to be a killer for some Mexican teams.
Winner of Campeon de Campeones (@ClubAmerica or @TigresOficial) 7/14 could potentially play in the U.S. twice within 6 days in August. @CampeonesCup on 8/14 in Atlanta and @LeaguesCup semi-final on 8/20.#LigaMXEng https://t.co/QQ9uf5gxBg— Walter Franco (@thewfranco) May 29, 2019
And if an MLS club should lift this still unreleased trophy come September, I can see it now, all Mexican and American soccer media alike, and some fans, will be declaring that age old statement: MLS has finally caught up to Liga MX!
What do you think of the Leagues Cup tournament?
This poll is closed
Waste of time. Not gonna watch.
Good for building the rivalry. Might watch some of it.
Awesome! Catch me watching all the games!
You can follow Antonio on Twitter @antonio1998__