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Leagues Cup

Leagues Cup is Latest MLS, Liga MX Cash Grab

New Leagues Cup structure prompts summer break in MLS and Liga MX

With the announcement that MLS and Liga MX will be expanding the Leagues Cup into a “World Cup Format” featuring all teams and occurring in the summer, you can’t help but wonder, what in the world is the Leagues Cup? Don’t worry, you’re not alone in that thought. 

The pandemic forced the 2020 version to be canceled, so the reigning champions were Cruz Azul from the 2019 edition. Mexico’s Club Leon won the 2021 final over the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night, a little more than 24 hours after the latest tournament version was announced by both leagues.

Leagues Cup is a tournament meant to offer an opportunity for teams that aren’t in the CONCACAF Champions League. It’s a way for those teams to compete in an “international tournament.”

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However, starting in 2023 this tournament is going to decide 3 CONCACAF Champions League spots and force both leagues to take mid-season breaks. Yes, you read that right, the Champions League (also being expanded) still exists. 

No non-Mexican team has won the Champions League since 2005 when Saprissa of Costa Rica beat Mexico’s Pumas. The last time the MLS won it? The year 2000. Since 2008, there have been only four occasions when an MLS team was even in the final. 

Leagues Cup excludes other regional rivals

So why make another tournament that doesn’t take into account the rest of the region, and pits the two biggest leagues (and countries) in the region against each other to qualify for a tournament that they will likely win? 

The long and the short answer is money. 

It feels like a cash grab and has accurately been criticized as one. All the games are staged in the U.S., and what’s stronger than the dollar? Certainly not the Mexican peso, and even less so any currency from the rest of the CONCACAF region.

The Mexican Federation can say this is about growing the game in the United States, but is that real? Mexican teams already stage friendlies across the country. They help Univision garner the highest rated soccer matches every week. The Mexican men’s national team is already the most popular team in the country. 

In what way is this growing the game? Hosting the games all in the United States or Canada – two MLS teams are in Canada – in soccer-specific stadiums guarantees a high ticket price. Where is that money going?

Cashing in on Liga MX fans in U.S.

Is it going down the federation and helping grassroots teams or even the second division teams? Will some of that money go to other, less resourceful federations in CONCACAF? We all know that the money from the friendlies the Mexican National Team plays on American soil is allegedly meant to help with that, yet these federations couldn’t set up VAR for the international games that were just played. 

It’s all talk and nobody should believe them until we see tangible results. 

That’s not even talking about the logistical nightmare that this tournament will create in 2023. By then MLS will have 29 teams. Barring an expansion Liga MX will still have 18, instantly placing the Mexican teams at a disadvantage to win the tournament. 

Not to mention that it’s the same summer as the Gold Cup and the next Nations League final. Add in the matches from the normal seasons these leagues play plus other tournaments makes it impossible to find a break for the players. We’ll see more instances like the one we saw this year in the Leagues Cup, where Sporting Kansas City sent a youth squad to face Leon.

They were promptly annihilated.  Is that really going to help anyone become a better competitor, a better team? I highly doubt it. 

Money key motivation for new Leagues Cup

Money makes the world go round. Everyone knows it. We live through it every day. However, there’s a certain frustration that comes with seeing it invade the things we love the most. Seeing CONCACAF, MLS and FMF do something so blatantly meant to beef up their pockets just adds a sour taste to the sport.

A sport, mind you, that has more than its fair share of corruption and bribery issues. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like fans can do much about it. We talk with our wallets. As long as the cash keeps flowing in, these cash grabs will continue to be formed.

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