MLS reveals details for 2023 Leagues Cup

If you missed it, MLS announced plans for a month-long World Cup-style tournament between Major League Soccer and Liga MX last fall. Details for the competition were released today, with games taking place between July 21 and August 19.

From the press release:

NEW YORK AND MEXICO CITY (October 6, 2022) – Major League Soccer (MLS) and LIGA MX, with the support of Concacaf, announced today important competition details, including dates, format and hosting process for the inaugural edition of the historic and highly-anticipated Leagues Cup 2023.

In a monumental new chapter for North American soccer, beginning in 2023, MLS and LIGA MX will pause their respective league seasons each summer and all 47 first division clubs in Canada, Mexico and the United States will compete in the World Cup-style tournament.

This announcement sets the stage for the annual, month-long competition that will crown the winner among MLS and LIGA MX. The champion, as well as the second and third place finishers will qualify for the Concacaf Champions League and an opportunity to earn a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup. 

Leagues Cup 2023 will begin on Friday, July 21 with the final taking place on Saturday, August 19. The tournament will be played across the U.S. and Canada.

Leagues Cup Format  
An event unprecedented in the global game, the inaugural Leagues Cup will consist of 77 matches.

To watch the Leagues Cup explainer video, click here.  

Group Stage, Seeding and Hosting: For Leagues Cup 2023, one club each from MLS and LIGA MX will receive a bye past the Group Stage and enter the tournament in the Round of 32. MLS will be represented by the 2022 MLS Cup winner. For LIGA MX, of the two recent champions in Clausura 2022 and Apertura 2022, the club with the most combined points accumulated across both tournaments in the 2022 calendar year  will qualify directly into the Round of 32. The remaining 45 clubs will be divided into 15 groups of three clubs each. The 15 groups will be divided into four regions.

The Group Stage placement for MLS teams will be based on the final 2022 Supporters’ Shield standings. The top 15 MLS Clubs will each be placed in groups based on seeding, as well as by region, and will host two matches each. The top 15 LIGA MX clubs – based on the combined Clausura 2022 and Apertura 2022 standings – will be placed into groups in reverse order from the MLS clubs (No. 15 LIGA MX seeded club will be paired with No. 1 MLS seeded club and so on). There will be at least one LIGA MX club per group.

The remaining 13 MLS clubs together with the 2 remaining LIGA MX clubs, will be divided geographically and drawn into groups. The 13 MLS clubs will host one Group Stage match each. LIGA MX v. LIGA MX matches will be played at select venues depending on region. The Leagues Cup 2023 schedule and details will be announced in the coming months.

Every team will play two matches in the Group Stage, with the top two teams from each group, as determined by points, advancing to the Knockout Stage Round of 32. For tiebreakers and other competition items, the Leagues Cup 2023Competition Guidelines will be published in the coming months.

No matches in the Leagues Cup Group Stage will end in a tie. Each team receives one point if the game is tied after 90 minutes. The winner of the subsequent penalty kicks will earn an additional point. Regulation wins count as three points. 

Knockout Rounds: Following the Group Stage, the advancing teams will be joined by the top MLS and LIGA MX clubs and will be placed in a fixed bracket to compete in the single-game elimination Knockout Rounds beginning with the Round of 32 (16 matches), followed by Round of 16 (eight matches). The eight advancing teams will compete in the Quarterfinals (four matches) before the two Semifinal matches.

Leagues Cup Final and Third-Place Game: The Leagues Cup 2023 Final and Third-Place game, which will determine the qualifiers in Concacaf Champions League, will be played on Saturday, August 19. 

Concacaf Champions League Qualification
As previously announced by Concacaf, the Leagues Cup 2023 winner will qualify directly for the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16, and the second and third place Clubs will qualify for the Champions League Round One. This is the first official competition in the world to involve two leagues and be sanctioned by their Confederation. 

Global Distribution
As part of the multiyear partnership between MLS and Apple, fans around the world will be able to watch the entire Leagues Cup* tournament on the Apple TV app, which is available on Apple devices, smart TVs, streaming devices from Roku, Amazon, and Google, game consoles, and the web at tv.apple.com . Additional broadcast information in Canada, Mexico and U.S. will be announced at a later date. As previously announced, IMG Arena will be the data distribution partner for Leagues Cup.

Ticket Information 
MLS club season ticket holders should contact their club representative for more information. Tickets will be available to the general public in the coming months. 

Leagues Cup 2023 is part of the evolution of the successful partnership between MLS and LIGA MX that launched in 2018. The partnership is rooted in on-field rivalry but connected by a true spirit of collaboration off the field, with a focus on sharing best practices, growing the beautiful game in North America, and being a force for positive change in the communities of both leagues. 

77 games is a full, mouthwatering slate for fans. For comparison, the 2022 World Cup will feature 64 in the same general time span. It’s a lot of entertainment.

Three-team groups means each team is guaranteed a minimum of just two games, less attractive for them. With just two games in the group, there’s even less margin for error. Past tournaments haven’t been taken incredibly seriously by certain MLS clubs, but the Concacaf Champions League spots up for grabs will hopefully be an incentive to try and win the tournament.

There’s also the small fact that both leagues won’t play for a full month during the tournament. It’s impossible to rest players for a month and not experience some sort of drop off when they get back. If everyone buys in, this tournament has the potential to be one of the more exciting and certainly unique competitions in club soccer.

More details to come regarding league schedules and such, but there’s a lot to be excited about.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids.

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