The Leagues Cup, a tournament that brings together clubs from Major League Soccer (MLS), the Mexican League, and Canada, has been the stage for a fierce competition between MLS teams and their Mexican counterparts. So far, the competition has revealed an unfavorable panorama for the Mexican teams, while the MLS celebrates the success of seven clubs qualifying for the round of 16. The challenges faced by the Mexican teams and the opportunities for the MLS are issues that deserve a deeper analysis.
The performance of Mexican teams in the Leagues Cup has been disappointing since the group stage, with six out of 18 Mexican League clubs being eliminated early, representing one-third of the participating teams. In contrast, the MLS had eight clubs eliminated, but it is important to note that the league has a larger number of representatives (29), which proportionally results in a lower elimination rate (27%).
The poor performance of Mexican clubs worsened in the knockout stage, where, in five matchups between MLS and Mexican League teams, the US-based teams prevailed in four of them. Only Atlas managed to eliminate an MLS team, the New England Revolution, in a penalty shootout.
The lack of matches in Mexican territory has also been subject to criticism. The Leagues Cup is hosted by MLS clubs, raising questions about the balance of playing conditions and the representativeness of the tournament. This absence of matches in Mexico may affect the enthusiasm of local fans and reduce the competitiveness of the competition.
The president of Pachuca, Jesús Martínez, raised relevant issues regarding the economic aspect of the tournament. He emphasized that participation in the Leagues Cup involves logistical and financial risks for Mexican clubs, especially compared to the Libertadores, which offers a higher financial return. In this context, the caution of Mexican officials regarding the tournament is understandable.
On the other hand, the MLS has reasons to celebrate its performance in the Leagues Cup, which represents an opportunity for the league’s growth on the international stage. With seven clubs qualifying for the round of 16, the MLS shows its progress and competitiveness compared to the Mexican League. The competition also offers MLS teams the chance to face high-level opponents, which can raise the standard of play and provide valuable international experience to players.
The enthusiasm for the competition must be balanced with the concerns raised by the president of Pachuca. The MLS should seek ways to make the Leagues Cup more financially attractive and improve logistics for participating clubs. Additionally, finding solutions that allow matches to be played in Mexico is important to bring fans even closer and strengthen the ties between the leagues.
The Leagues Cup is a competition with great potential to boost soccer in North America, but it requires joint efforts from the MLS and the Mexican League to achieve a balance between competitiveness, financial return, and logistics. With appropriate adjustments and continuous investment, the Leagues Cup can become a true showcase of soccer talent in the region, providing exciting matchups between clubs from both leagues and elevating the level of soccer on the continent.