The relationship between Major League Soccer and Liga MX became even closer on Tuesday as the leagues announced plans to expand The Leagues Cup to each team in both MLS and Liga MX starting in 2023, which includes pausing both league’s regular season schedules for a full month.
The Leagues Cup, which this year was an eight-team tournament, will expand to 47 clubs in 2023 — 18 from Liga MX and 29 from MLS. The champion will earn an automatic berth in the round of 16 of the Concacaf Champions League with the second- and third-place teams qualifying for the opening round of the tournament.
The format consisting of a group phase followed by a knockout stage akin to the FIFA World Cup, which the U.S., Canada and Mexico will host in 2026. That 2026 tournament will be the first with 48 teams — one more than what the revised Leagues Cup will entail.
“The new Leagues Cup with every club in MLS and Liga MX competing in an intense, month-long, tournament will establish new standards for what is possible between our two leagues,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “Since its launch 3½ years ago, our partnership with Liga MX has grown quickly and the competition has brought out the best in both of us. On the path to the FIFA World Cup in 2026 hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico, this is the perfect moment to produce a tournament that will elevate the profile of Concacaf and showcase the incredible passion our region has for soccer played at the highest level.”
MLS and Liga MX will form a joint venture to sell international media rights to the tournament. Gaber and Arriola raised the possibility that U.S. and Mexican TV rights to The Leagues Cup may be sold separately from the rest of MLS’ TV rights, which are set to expire at the end of the 2022 season and is also among the properties owned by MLS’ marketing arm, Soccer United Marketing.
“We are in a celebratory mood given the historic announcement about the new competition ecosystem,” Liga MX President Mikel Arriola said. “All parties involved converged on the objective to provide the fans of North American Futbol and all over the world greater entertainment and spectacle, provide MLS and LIGA MX clubs a more intensified competition schedule to raise playing standards and quality. In this way, economic benefits can be reinvested creating a virtuous cycle assisting the development of players, clubs, and marketing opportunities for futbol and sports in general.”
Teams from the two leagues already face each other in the Concacaf Champions League and Campeones Cup and this year’s MLS All-Star Game in Los Angeles featured a group of MLS players facing off against Liga MX players, with the MLS winning a penalty kick shootout.
This year’s Leagues Cup championship game is Thursday between MLS’ Seattle Sounders and Leon from Liga MX in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium, which has already been announced as the host for the 2022 final. The 2019 event was won by Cruz Azul at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas before the 2020 event was canceled because of the pandemic.