Soccer-MLS and Liga MX to expand Leagues Cup to all 47 teams

FILE PHOTO: Aug 24, 2021; Los Angeles, CA, USA; MLS commissioner Don Garber speaks during the MLS Works Barbershop Forum at Club Coliseum Rooftop. Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) -Every Major League Soccer (MLS) and Liga MX club will pause their seasons in the summer of 2023 to participate in an expanded Leagues Cup - growing to 47 teams from eight - as the North American leagues continue to integrate, officials said on Tuesday.

The tournament - featuring 29 teams from MLS and 18 from Mexico's Liga MX - will be held in the United States and is intended to showcase the sport in the region in the years leading up to the 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

"The new Leagues Cup with every club in MLS and Liga MX competing in an intense, month-long tournament will establish new standards for what is possible between our two leagues, and further showcase our players and clubs to a global audience," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

"Since its launch three and a half years ago, our partnership with Liga MX has grown quickly and the competition has brought out the best in both of us," he said.

"This is the perfect moment to produce a tournament that will elevate the profile of CONCACAF and showcase the incredible passion our region has for soccer played at the highest level."

The new Leagues Cup will be an official competition of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), with the tournament champion earning automatic qualification for the CCL round of 16. Clubs that finish second and third in the competition will qualify for the opening round of the CCL.

In a separate announcement on Tuesday, CONCACAF said it would expand the CCL from to 27 clubs from 16 starting in 2024.

The annual Leagues Cup, which began in 2019, currently sees four teams from MLS and four teams from Liga MX play in a single-elimination tournament.

The Leagues Cup final between MLS's Seattle Sounders and Liga MX's Club Leon will be held on Wednesday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Tuesday's announcement is the latest in the growing partnership between the leagues.

In June, MLS's Garber and Liga MX Executive President Mikel Arriola told Reuters they were on a path that could see them ultimately merge into one North American league.

In August, the MLS held its coronavirus-delayed All-Star game in Los Angeles and for the first time played it against Liga MX's All-Stars.

The home side beat the visitors in a penalty shootout with the winning spot kick coming from 18-year-old FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis and Christopher Cushing)

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