Major League Soccer (MLS) and Liga MX have overhauled the Leagues Cup for 2023, turning it into a World Cup-like club tournament that will involve every team in both leagues and create new commercial opportunities.
The Leagues Cup launched in 2019 with four teams from each league participating. Next summer, all 29 MLS clubs and 18 Liga MX clubs will pause their respective seasons from July 21 to August 19 to participate in the tournament.
The new format is already paying off, as the tournament signed its first commercial partner, Molson Coors Company, on Tuesday. The multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal is one of many partnerships the tournament organizers hope to sign to underwrite the event. “It’s a new opportunity for brands who maybe have not invested in soccer over the last several years or haven’t had an opportunity to [invest]. [It’s also an opportunity] for others to double down,” Evan Levine, vice president of brand alliances for MLS, said in a phone interview.
The Leagues Cup will be an official competition of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), the annual continental club-soccer competition that involves 31 qualifiers from throughout the Americas and the Caribbean. The team that wins the Leagues Cup will automatically qualify for the CCL round of 16 and clubs finishing in second and third will qualify for the CCL opening round.
The tournament is a chance for MLS to forge new relationships. In terms of commercial partners, “we want fewer, bigger, better from a partnership perspective,” Levine said. “A partner who has been around all sports in North America including soccer, but in most recent history hasn’t made the investment and now has an opportunity to invest in Leagues Cup and leverage a platform for reaching new audiences.”
Coors Light has existing partnerships in the sports space, including with MLB, NHL, ESPN and DraftKings. “We had not had a partnership in soccer in a long time,” Katie Feldman, director of marketing at Coors Light, said in a Zoom call. “Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports, not just with a younger consumer but [also with] a more diverse consumer group. We wanted to ensure that we meet our consumers where they are.”
Coors Light will be the exclusive beer partner of the Leagues Cup. Parent Molson Coors will also use the tournament to promote Topo Chico Spirited, a line of canned cocktails made with tequila from Jalisco, Mexico, in partnership with the Coca-Cola Company.
“We are putting a lot of investment behind the [League’s Cup] partnership, not only in the agreement we have with them but in the muscle of our organization, from distributors and to our agency partners and how they’re going to bring the property to life above the line in social digital,” Feldman said.
Soccer United Marketing (SUM) assisted MLS and Liga MX in putting together the partnership with Coors Light.
“It’s another opportunity for brands who may not have had an opportunity to through, for instance, Soccer United Marketing, to get involved on our other properties,” Levine said. “Who doesn’t like a World Cup-style tournament in the middle of the summer, with the U.S. and Mexico as well as Canada, as we look towards 2026, as all three countries host the World Cup?”