As we enter the Leagues Cup Round of 32, with the 12 Liga MX and 20 MLS teams left standing to face off over the next three days, it’s a good time to stop and ask: What’s at stake here?
The short answer: Fame, fortune, and a pathway to participate in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup, which is shaping up to be the most lucrative tournament on the planet. While Leagues Cup prize money is nothing to sniff at by the cash-poor standards of North American soccer (more on that below), but the real reward for lifting the trophy might be that it opens the door to compete with the biggest clubs in the world.
$40 million in Leagues Cup prize money
There is a total of $40 million in Leagues Cup prize money, according to various sources. (More on that below). That’s considerably less than the $207 million handed out by the Copa Libertadores, or even the $78 million of the Copa Sudamerica, never mind the $2.6 billion total payout in the UEFA Champions League, or the $510 million of the EUFA Europa League.
But that $40 million is significantly more than the $3.2 million handed out by the Concacaf Champions League, a tournament that was retired after Club Léon won it earlier this year. It will be replaced by the Concacaf Champions Cup in 2024, and while the total purse hasn’t been disclosed, it is thought to be as much as five times larger.
International Club Tournament Prize Money
First Place Total Purse
FIFA Club World Cup (2025)
UEFA Champions League
UEFA Europa League
Europa Conference League
CAF Champions League
FIFA Club World Cup (2023)
AFC Champions League
Concacaf Champions Cup (2024)
Concacaf Champions League (2023)
OFC Champions League
Which raises a bigger question: Why doesn’t the Leagues Cup or CONCACAF disclose the cash prizes that are distributed?
They’re unusually guarded about the prize money they award at their tournaments. UEFA posts a highly-detailed formulation that explains every prize payout for every round of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Europa Conference League; CONMEBOL posts easy-to-understand graphics that explain their prize structure.
But CONCACAF and Leagues Cup treat their significantly smaller purses like they’re state secrets: If we know much the semifinalists get, it might make Fairbanks vulnerable to a Russian attack.
$100,000 per knockout appearance, $50,000 per knockout win
Every team will reportedly receive $100,000 for appearing in a knockout game, and $50,000 for winning a knockout game. These per-match fees account for most of the $40 million Leagues Cup payout.
The Leagues Cup winner will take home up to $2 million
Reportedly, the Leagues Cup winner will get up to $2 million in cash prizes. If the two teams that make it will bank $700,000 before competing for the trophy, then the winner will presumably pocket $1.3 million for lifting the trophy.
We should once again note that these are estimations based on reports that appear in reputable publications. Because why put an end to speculation? And disclose the prize structure in the same manner as COMENBOL, FIFA, and UEFA? When you can be opaque and create the perfect breeding ground for well-intentioned journalists to unintentionally spread misinformation?
a good trophy the best trophy
The Leagues Cup winner will also take home a trophy that is easily the best-looking cup in international soccerball. Most trophies fall into one of two camps: There are classic cups (handles, amphora shapes), and there are abstracted cups (slender profiles, open sides). It just so happens that NYCFC have won both.
The Leagues Cup cup is neither. It’s stout, more a chalice than a cup. It looks like it belongs on the shelves of the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City, and we’re here for it.
Europe and South America might stage tournaments with financial rewards that put this display of Lixa MX and MLS teams, but the Leagues Cup trophy is easily the best in the world.
You get into Concacaf Champions Cup
Arguably, the real prize for finishing at the top of the Leagues Cup is that it places you in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup, the tournament that replaces the Concacaf Champions League.
The top three Leagues Cup top finishers each earn a spot in the Concacaf Champions Cup. The winner will advance directly to the Round of 16, while the second-place and third-place teams will play in Round One. This reward adds value to the third-place match, a game that’s usually seen as little more than a consolation prize — the two teams that face off in that match will have a lot at stake.
The inaugural Concacaf Champions Cup will be larger and richer than the Concacaf Champions League. Exactly how much richer? Maybe five times as much, according to an enthusiastic but carefully-worded press release issued by CONEMBOL. The winner “will receive USD $5m+ in financial distributions and prize money, an increase of more than five times compared with the Concacaf Champions League era,” it says, carefully avoiding any actual figures.
Which brings us to the FIFA Club World Cup
The purse for the Concacaf Champions Cup is still small when compared to other international competitions. The $5 million for the winner is larger than what you get in Asia, smaller than what you get in Africa, and a rounding error for what you get in Europe.
But the winner will book their ticket to a revamped FIFA Club World Cup, a competition that will take place every four years. More to the point, it aims to out-money the UEFA Champions League: The winner of the FIFA Club World Cup will take home an estimated $110 million top prize.
Could a Liga MX or MLS team go all the way, and push aside all the heavy hitters in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Brazil, and Argentina?