After four months and 28 matches of near non-stop action, the MLS season has ground to an abrupt halt. It’s not only to stop and admire the unveiling of Lionel Messi, but rather to launch a first-of-its-kind in world football in a reformatted and expanded Leagues Cup.
What makes this competition different? Two leagues, Major League Soccer and Liga MX, are combining forces to compete in a single tournament. Unlike other international competitions such as the UEFA Champions League or the Copa Libertadores, in which only qualifying clubs participate, Leagues Cup will feature every team from MLS and every team from Liga MX. That’s a whopping 47 teams in total from the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
No coefficients, no play-ins, no funny business. Just every single team in one beautifully chaotic, month-long, winner-take-all competition.
It’s a revolutionary idea on paper, but not everyone appears sold on the idea. While some are clearly excited in the MLS twittersphere, others question the validity of the tournament, calling it something more resembling a money grab than a meaningful competition.
So, we’re turning to you fine people, the readers of Hudson River Blue, to tell us how you feel. Do you care about Leagues Cup?
Below, I’ll lay out two arguments, pro and con. Then, you can cast your vote in the Readers Poll below.
Why you should care about Leagues Cup
Are you a fan of an MLS or Liga MX club? Do you like silverware? Well, Leagues Cup may be for you!
No matter if you support a club at the top of the table or the bottom (like our poor, poor New York City FC), this tournament represents an opportunity to lift a trophy. And who doesn’t like that?
As NYCFC fans will remember from last year’s Campeones Cup victory, it doesn’t really matter what the competition is: Winning a trophy is fun as hell. It creates great memories, and provides a tangible reward for a club’s achievement in a way that “three points” just don’t.
Plus, unlike the Campeones Cup which just involved two clubs, the champions of American and Mexican soccer, Leagues Cup is a competition with FOURTY SEVEN TEAMS.
I don’t care if the tournament doesn’t yet have the luxury of historical prestige, rising above 46 other clubs en route to a trophy ceremony is a huge achievement. For reference, the UEFA Champions League currently has a 32-team tournament, and the CONCACAF Champions League is just a 16-team competition. So, the difficulty of beating a field this size (all of a very similar
quality I might add) cannot be understated.
Even if my NYCFC are eliminated early, I’m hyped to see how this all unfolds. Partially just to witness who will rise above the carnage of it all to lift the new trophy, but also for some of the truly wild matchups we might see along the way.
The idea that St. Louis City, a club that can be dated in months rather than years, will square up against a legendary organization like Club America, a team founded over one century ago, is a wild concept.
As I said in the intro, we’ve never seen anything like this before.
Let me explain. The UEFA Champions League might be the best way to create the highest level of competition in Europe, but that’s just not the case in CONCACAF. Given the scale of the leagues in the region, Liga MX and MLS are really the only two leagues that can provide adequate competition for one another.
According to CONCACAF’s own Club Rating Index, only three teams inside the Top 50 aren’t from Liga MX or Major League Soccer. And yet, seven of the 16 teams in last year’s CONCACAF Champions League came from outside MLS and Liga MX. The overall quality of clubs in the CCL simply isn’t that high.
If you’re looking to decide which is the best team in CONCACAF, I say turn to the Leagues Cup.
Why you shouldn’t care about Leagues Cup
It’s admittedly kinda hard to switch gears entirely after gassing up the tournament as hard as I just did in the last section, but there are certainly reasons to be unenthused by Leagues Cup.
The first of which is a simple one: I love MLS. The idea of putting the league (and Liga MX) on pause for a month is brutal. I enjoy watching each match week, and I’m invested in this season. Why stop it now?
In NYCFC’s case, you could argue that this pause couldn’t have come at a better time given their current league form, but what if you’re a red-hot team like Real Salt Lake?
RSL enter Leagues Cup on a nine-match unbeaten run that includes six wins, taking an impressive 21 points from a possible 27. They hit great form and surged up to third in the Western Conference, with their eyes set on a valuable high playoff seed that would guarantee them all-important home playoff matches at Rio Tinto.
But instead of carrying that momentum into their next MLS match, they’ll now put all that on the back burner.
And for what, exactly? Another new completion that is supposed to have meaning right off the bat?
That’s beginning to feel like something we encounter a lot these days as fans: New tournaments, new trophies, and new television deals.
Since 2018 we’ve seen the addition of Nations League, Campeones Cup, Europa Conference League, and expanded playoffs for MLS Cup. There’s a bigger Club World Cup coming in 2025, and an 48-team FIFA World Cup in 2026. Maybe it’s just me, but new tournaments and new formats no longer feel “new.”
All these new competitions lead to a larger conversation surrounding fixture congestion and player welfare. Ever since COVID threw the footballing calendar out of whack in 2020, soccer has been basically going nonstop.
There are 30-plus match domestic seasons, cup competitions, and Champions League-style tournaments. If a player is talented enough to represent their national team, they play during the international breaks. Who knows how many minutes they might log in competitive matches and friendlies?
It’s clear there’s already too much soccer. And what did MLS and Liga MX do? Add another 77 matches to the calendar, spacing games only a few days apart.
Of course, these new tournaments and broadcast deals all come with more dollar signs for the governing bodies, leagues, clubs, and owners alike. So, it’s only natural that they’ll continue to pop up so long as fans are attending matches and logging into their Apple TV subscriptions.
At what stage does this all begin to feel hollow? How many competitions can you realistically be emotionally attached to as a fan? And when does it all become so saturated that all competitions begin to lose a bit of meaning?
Leagues Cup Readers Poll
There you have it, a case for and against Leagues Cup.
But the final vote is up to you! Do you see this tournament as a shot at winning the toughest competition CONCACAF has to offer?
Or is this a shameless money grab, attempting to squeeze every last drop out of these exhausted footballers? Let us know why you voted the way you did in the comments.