MLS-Liga MX tourney to have 16 teams in '20

MEXICO CITY -- Leagues Cup between MLS and Liga MX clubs will jump from eight to 16 clubs for the tournament's second edition in 2020, it was announced on Thursday.

The inaugural cup competition between North America's two biggest leagues kicks off on July 23, but preparations for next year have already started, with the qualifying format for the expanded competition now confirmed.

The eight MLS clubs involved will be the top four from the 2019 MLS Eastern Conference regular season standings and the top four teams in the 2019 MLS Western Conference regular season that don't qualify for the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL).

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In Liga MX, the 2019 Apertura champion, 2020 Clausura champions, 2019-20 Copa MX champion and the five best-placed teams in the general standings over the Apertura and Clausura that aren't already qualified for the Leagues Cup will play the tournament.

The 2019 edition of the Leagues Cup, which has been sanctioned by CONCACAF, 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 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 Las Vegas.

MLS clubs from the United States qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League by either becoming MLS Cup champions, winning the Supporters' Shield winner, finishing the regular season top of the Eastern of Western Conference (whichever isn't the Supporters' Shield champion) or by lifting the U.S. Open Cup, with one spot from Canada going to the winner of the Canadian Championship.

Liga MX clubs can feature in both Leagues Cup and the CCL, with Mexican and MLS clubs only entering the knockout stage of the CONCACAF tournament in February 2020. The expanded Leagues Cup will be played in the second half of 2020 in the United States, or Canada if a Canadian team is involved.

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.