Starting in July, MLS and Liga MX will compete in a new, eight team, single elimination competition to crown the best club in Mexico and the United States (Canada can go fuck itself unless Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal qualify for the tourney, I guess). At least, that’s in theory what is being pitched to the masses after the two leagues announced today the formation of something called “the Leagues Cup.” As things tend to go with North American soccer, it’s not that simple, nor that good, in practice.
No doubt inspired by the dumb and extraneous domestic league cups of England and France, MLS and Liga MX have teamed up to invent a phony new trophy that exists for the sole purpose of taking fans’ money. The actual need for this is nonexistent. America already has its own domestic knockout cup competition in the U.S. Open Cup. Ditto for Mexico with the Copa MX. And to determine regional superiority, CONCACAF already puts on the Champions League. Any legitimate purpose this new Leagues Cup could possibly serve is already facilitated by real tournaments with real history. Though that’s never stopped the powers that be before, so here comes this new thing.
Evidence of the tournament’s nonsensical, profit-minded focus abounds. Why pick these specific eight teams? The Liga MX contingent (Tigres UANL, Club America, Tijuana, and Cruz Azul) does seem to have been selected with an eye toward recent results, but the “invited” MLS sides (Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, and Real Salt Lake) feel completely random. None of those four have won an MLS Supporters Shield or Cup since the Galaxy did it in 2014, nor are most of them even particularly good in 2019.
Why does MLS get to host all of the games this season? Every MLS team gets to be the home side in the first round, and the semis and final will both be held at MLS stadiums, the specific venues to be announced later based on who advances. The only reason to hold this tournament stateside in its entirety, and by doing so keeping out the majority of the Liga MX clubs’ local fans, is for the teams involved to get their hands into the ostensibly deeper pockets of American and America-based fans.
Why make this tournament so short and hold it in the middle of the summer? Presumably it’s an attempt to capture fans’ attention with a flashy spectacle of club soccer during the European leagues’ offseason. If you close your eyes you can picture MLS and Liga MX execs lustily rubbing their hands together as they imagine the fat Leagues Cup TV rights deal they certainly must expect is on its way. If the TV money is good enough, this tournament will only expand the chasm between Liga MX and MLS teams and all the foreign and domestic CONCACAF divisions below those two—something else these leagues are aping from the European game. Once again, the rich get richer by not even giving the poor a seat at the table when the money is divvied up.
At every turn, the only sensible answer to “Why is this happening at all/like this?” is “Money, duh.” Of all the good and righteous things North American soccer could and should adopt from the European game, they keep bringing over nothing but the bad.