MLS and Liga MX announce Leagues Cup

Major League Soccer and Liga MX have confirmed the creation of an annual Leagues Cup between teams from each competition, as reported by ESPN last February.

The inaugural cup competition will begin in the United States over July 23 and 24 and see Houston Dynamo face Club America, Real Salt Lake host Tigres, Chicago Fire play Cruz Azul and LA Galaxy take on Club Tijuana. The MLS teams will all play at home.

The winners of the quarterfinals advance to the semis, which be played on Aug. 20. MLS clubs will play at home if they face Mexican opposition and the games will be in either BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston or Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles if they are all Liga MX or all MLS affairs.

The final will take place on Sept. 18 in the United States at a location yet to be be announced.

"We are excited to take our partnership with Liga MX to the next level with Leagues Cup," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

"We have an intense rivalry between our national teams, and Leagues Cup provides a terrific opportunity to increase the growing rivalry between MLS and Liga MX clubs."

The tournament has been sanctioned by CONCACAF, with Liga MX and MLS clubs not taking part in the CONCACAF Champions League until the Round of 16 stage in early 2020.

"Alongside our own expanded regional club competitions, which includes the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, the Leagues Cup organized by Liga MX and MLS further strengthens our sport in our Confederation and is a precursor for future collaboration between CONCACAF, Liga MX, MLS and other key stakeholders," said CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani.

Leagues Cup is part of a drive from both MLS and Liga MX to strengthen the working relationship, which was formally cemented in a strategic partnership announced in 2018.

"We are taking this extremely seriously," Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke said. "This is not like when we played Manchester United in a summer friendly. Of course, we want to win that too but this is a tournament-style.

"It's something that's going to have a trophy at the end of it, so that's something that we take extremely seriously, and it's something that's going to motivate the players, as it will myself, coaches and staff."

It will be the first time Mexico international and LA Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos will be competing against a Mexican team in an official competition.

"Yes, for me I think it will be the first time that I will face Mexican teams," Dos Santos, whose Galaxy side will face Tijuana, said.

"It will be a one-of-a-kind experience for me, just like for the club, the league. I think it is important for the growth. I think it is important to be seen worldwide. The Liga MX is growing, too. I think it was a good decision to put this [Leagues Cup] together."

Mexican clubs haven't competed in South America's Copa Libertadores tournament since 2016 and Montagliani said earlier this month that the focus would be on strengthening on regional competition and the CONCACAF Champions League.

Liga MX clubs have dominated CONCACAF's regional club tournament, winning the last 14 editions, although for Leagues Cup the Mexican teams will be coming into the tournament with only one competitive game, with the 2019 Apertura only beginning on July 19.

Current MLS champion Atlanta United will host Club America or Tigres on Aug. 14 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the Campeones Cup, another part of the deepening relationship between MLS and Liga MX.

MLS and Liga MX sides used to play the SuperLiga, which included four teams from each league and ran between 2007 and 2010, before it was discontinued.