A new international club competition heats up this summer across the U.S.
Major League Soccer, Liga MX, and Concacaf have announced the creation of Leagues Cup, an annual single-elimination tournament between the top two leagues in North America. The Chicago Fire are one of eight teams invited to participate in the inaugural edition, which includes four sides from MLS and four from Liga MX. Before the action kicks off in July, learn all about the competition for continental bragging rights.
Designed to increase meaningful international competition for MLS and Liga MX clubs throughout the year, the 2019 Leagues Cup features eight clubs with a pedigree of lifting trophies. The tournament marks the next phase in the rivalry between the USA and Mexico.
- Chicago Fire – MLS Cup and four-time U.S. Open Cup champions
- Houston Dynamo – Two-time MLS Cup champions and reigning U.S. Open Cup champions
- LA Galaxy – Five-time MLS Cup champions
- Real Salt Lake – MLS Cup champions
Liga MX clubs:
- Club America – 13-time Liga MX champions and six-time Copa MX champions
- Cruz Azul – Eight-time Liga MX champions and four-time Copa MX champions
- Tigres UANL – Three-time Copa MX champions, reigning Campeones Cup and seven-time Liga MX champions
- Club Tijuana – Liga MX champions
In the opening round, the Fire will host Cruz Azul on July 23 at SeatGeek Stadium.
"MLS is growing to be really close to the standard that the Mexican League has to offer," Chicago Fire midfielder Djordje Mihailović said. "And to be able to play teams like Cruz Azul and to show what we can offer to the table is a great opportunity for us."
For 2020, MLS and Liga MX are exploring the option to expand Leagues Cup to 16 teams. And while all clubs in 2019 received invitations to participate, MLS and Liga MX are also exploring a sporting-based qualification process for future tournaments.
With eight teams vying for the crown in 2019, three victories are needed to claim the first-ever Leagues Cup title. The competition begins July 23-24 with four quarterfinal matchups. In this single-elimination format, the winners advance to the semifinals and losers go home.
No reseeding or restructuring of the bracket will occur, so the winner of the Fire and Cruz Azul matchup will take on whichever team emerges from the LA Galaxy vs. Club Tijuana clash. On the other side, Houston Dynamo will meet Club America and Real Salt Lake will face Tigres UANL.
"The competition against the Mexican teams, it's always very, very important and always passionate," Chicago Fire head coach Velijko Paunović said. "To make this competition meaningful we really have to put everything we have. I think the fans will enjoy and I think it's going to be a great experience for all the participants."
Each game in the 2019 edition will take place in the United States, with the MLS clubs hosting the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds at their home venues.
Should the Fire defeat Cruz Azul, they would either travel to Dignity Health Sports Park in Los Angeles to face LA Galaxy or host Club Tijuana at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview on August 20. The same applies on the opposite side of the bracket, with Houston Dynamo designated as a semifinal host should they advance past Club America.
If no MLS team wins a quarterfinal matchup, the four Liga MX clubs would still play in the U.S., with Dignity Health Sports Park and BBVA Compass Stadium assigned as host venues.
The Leagues Cup final will take place September 18 at a U.S. venue to be announced.
The Fire have never faced Cruz Azul, but have plenty of history against international opponents. Last year, the Club traveled to Germany for Bastian Schweinsteiger's testimonial match against FC Bayern Munich. Go behind the scenes for that special trip as Germany celebrated one of its sporting legends.
Chicago was victorious in its last clash against a Mexican side, defeating the Chivas Developmental Team 2-0 to win the 2014 Desert Diamond Cup title in Tucson on the back of goals from Juan Luis Anangono and Quincy Amarikwa. The most recent occasion the Fire hosted a Liga MX club at SeatGeek Stadium came in 2013, when reigning league champions Club América left with a narrow 3-2 victory.
Cruz Azul just finished their Liga MX Clausura campaign, falling 2-3 on aggregate to Club América in the quarterfinals following a fourth-place regular season finish.
"It's going to be of course a big challenge," Schqeinsteiger said of Cruz Azul. "They have a good team up front, very good players and technically really good. Of course they also play with a passion, and that's not easy to play against."
The Ticket Details
The match against Cruz Azul is included in the season ticket packages for Heineken Second Star Club and Suite Holders. Additionally, Stadium Club Season Ticket Holders will receive the right of first refusal on their seat locations.
Group tickets are available for purchase by calling 888-MLS-FIRE.
Tickets went on sale to the general public on June 6. You can secure your seats here.