After featuring in a Leagues Cup branded friendly this summer against Club América at SoFi Stadium, LAFC will enter Leagues Cup in a competitive format for the first time next year, as part of what will be a jam-packed schedule for the black-and-gold.
Some of the parts of the Leagues Cup format and schedule are new or different than what we are used to, so here’s a bullet point breakdown of what’s coming:
- The 2023 Leagues Cup will take place July 21-Aug. 19, 2023, and most importantly, the MLS regular season will go on hiatus during the Leagues Cup.
- The 2022 MLS Cup winner, as well as the top Liga MX team, will get byes to the knockout round.
- All other teams will play in the group stage, and all groups will have three teams. The top 15 MLS finishers in the regular season this year will be seeded, so if LAFC don’t win MLS Cup this year and get a bye, they will be seeded No. 1 for their group, and play the No. 15 Liga MX seeded team, plus a third team, which could be either MLS or Liga MX.
- Group stage will be two games total, one game against each group opponent. MLS teams will not travel to Mexico for any games.
- The top two finishers in each group will advance to the knockout stage, which will begin from the Round of 32.
- MLS seeded teams will host both of their group games, so again, if LAFC enter at the group stage, they’ll host both group games.
- There will be no games that end in draws. If a game is tied after 90 minutes, there will be a penalty shootout, and the team that wins the shootout will get two points for the group standings, the shootout loser will get one point.
- The knockouts will be a fixed bracket, seeming March Madness style.
- The winner of the Leagues Cup, in addition to winning a trophy, will get a berth to the 2024 Concacaf Champions League Round of 16.
- The second- and third-place teams will earn places in the 2024 CCL, too, as they will go into the CCL Round One. That means there will be a Leagues Cup third-place game, with something on the line.
- Viewers in the United States can watch Leagues Cup as part of the new Apple TV streaming package that will kick off next year, so no need to subscribe to yet another streaming service.
So some quick takeaways from those main points:
- There’s a bit of good news/bad news no matter the outcome for Leagues Cup here. Good news, you make a run and win it all, no complaints. But if you do that, you’ll have to play at least six games and most likely seven games in a month, which is kind of a lot. If you get knocked out at the group stage, however, you’ll be done after two games and then just...cool your heels. But think about it, rest at midseason isn’t the very worst thing in the world for a team that’s not winning the competition, is it?
- The penalty shootouts in the group stage kind of stink, until you realize it’s probably the best solution for a big problem. With just two group stage games, the likelihood teams will be even on points in groups is very high and so a quick PK session is better than playing extra time, an extra playoff game, or drawing lots.
- No MLS team traveling to Mexico makes the entire thing kind of a joke, as the competition gets fairly imbalanced with all the games hosted in the U.S. and Canada. At the same time, thankfully teams don’t have to risk their health even more by traveling and then playing on short rest. Given my druthers, if it’s only going to be one trip to Mexico in the group stage I think that would be doable, but the players’ health is most important.
- I wonder how teams will approach this particular tournament. Liga MX teams will be in their preseason, so expect a lot of players with jersey numbers like 103. The same could be true of MLS teams, who may use this competition to play younger players and those not getting a look otherwise, but MLS will be in midseason and they will therefore probably be more motivated to “go for it” compared to the Liga MX competition in a general sense. Still, there will probably be varied approaches on display from teams in both leagues.
We’ll see how things look when they actually kick off the Leagues Cup extravaganza next summer, but for now we have the general outlines for a new competition on the plate of MLS and Liga MX teams, including LAFC.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.