Major League Soccer and Liga MX agreed to carve a one-month hole in their schedules to create a CONCACAF-sanctioned club tournament that would include all 47 teams across the two leagues.
Set to begin in 2023, the new Leagues Cup represents the latest synergy created between MLS and Liga MX. And the timing of this deal is crucial, as MLS’ eight-year deal, bundling its TV rights with U.S. Soccer at large, comes to an end in 2022. MLS is currently negotiating its new TV contracts, separate from U.S. Soccer, which is shopping rights to the USMNT and USWNT games starting in 2023.
Despite MLS’ prominence in the U.S., Liga MX is actually the most popular soccer league in the country. Games from Liga MX on Univision have drawn more viewers in the U.S. this year, almost double what English Premier League games have seen on NBC in the same time frame.
Though the tournament will take place entirely in the U.S. and Canada, its revenues from sponsorships and ticket sales will be shared between MLS and Liga MX. Details of the revenue split have not yet been disclosed.
Described by FIFA vice president and CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani as “a reimagined Leagues Cup,” the annual month-long tournament will be an official competition of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), with the tournament champion earning automatic qualification for the CCL round of 16. In addition, clubs finishing second and third in the Leagues Cup will qualify for the Opening Round of the CCL. The Leagues Cup debuted in July 2019 and is played between four teams from each league.
Montagliani joined MLS commissioner Don Garber and Liga MX president Mikel Arriola at a press conference in New York for the announcement.
“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,” said Garber. “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 levels.”
According to Arriola, this collaboration between MLS and Liga MX extends the close relationship the U.S. and Mexico have that goes beyond soccer.
“We want CONCACAF to become the best association of soccer,” Arriola said. “We know this model will continue, this amplified version of the Leagues Cup is here to stay because our clubs want to play.”
The new tournament will take place during the summer, in the years leading into the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the U.S., Canada and Mexico—the first World Cup to feature 48 countries.
MLS and Liga MX launched a partnership in 2018, establishing the Campeones Cup, which pits the champions from each league against each other. MLS champions Columbus Crew SC will host La Liga MX champion Cruz Azul on Sept. 29. The leagues have also collaborated on other club team-based events, including a battle of all-star teams in Los Angeles on Aug. 25. Leagues Cup 2023—and future editions of the tournament—is the grand-scale transformation of Leagues Cup, which began in 2019 and continues this season and in 2022. Seattle Sounders F.C. will take on Club León in the 2021 Leagues Cup Final on Wednesday, at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
With assistance from Eben Novy-Williams.