If you’ve been paying attention over the last two or so weeks, there have been rumors floating around about a competition between MLS and Liga MX clubs.
That was officially announced today as the Leagues Cup, and it features four MLS sides and four Liga MX sides. One of those teams? Real Salt Lake.
We’re facing our one-time foes: Tigres UANL, the team that knocked us out of the CONCACAF Champions League in a hard-fought battle in early 2016.
Let’s break this down.
From the MLS corner:
From the Liga MX corner:
- Club America
- Cruz Azul
- Tigres UANL
- Club Tijuana
The selection process
So — how were these teams selected, exactly? Let’s go to the press release.
While sporting criteria will determine participants for both leagues in future editions of Leagues Cup, for the inaugural 2019 edition, the four Liga MX clubs were selected based on results in recent competitions, while the four MLS club participants were invited to compete. All clubs have won domestic titles.
So — that’s a little weird. It’s basically an invitational. I wonder if clubs with more recent successes were invited but turned down the offer. It’s perhaps telling that RSL is the most successful of the MLS teams involved — collectively, the teams averaged 1.22 points per game in 2018.
Let’s just put the quotes out here and let them speak for themselves.
“It’s always great to play international competitions to compare yourself to other leagues,” Real Salt Lake Head Coach Mike Petke said. “Obviously there is a US-Mexico soccer rivalry that really centers around the national teams, but also in CONCACAF Champions League. This is just another addition to it that could be a huge thing and it’s something that we are taking extremely seriously.”
“Playing against Tigres is a big opportunity for this club – a big opportunity for this team, especially when you have a chance to win a trophy. We’re looking forward to it,” Real Salt Lake GK Nick Rimando said. “This is another chance for us to step up against these big opponents down in Mexico and prove that we can play with them and maybe one day win a championship against them.”
It’s interesting that there’s no quote from RSL general manager Craig Waibel here, but I’m not going to read too far into that.
RSL will host Tigres on July 24. It’s single-elimination, so having the home seed is probably helpful. It’s also probably helpful that this is, more or less, Tigres will be in preseason, and we’ll be in the middle of our season. And by helpful, I mean only in the context of our chances around winning. There are some other things I’m concerned about that I’ll address once we’re through the facts here.
Wednesday, July 24: Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL (Rio Tinto Stadium – Salt Lake City, UT) 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday, August 20: Semifinals
Wednesday, Sept. 18: Final (Las Vegas)
If we go through to the semifinal, we’d host, unless we face an MLS team, in which case, we’d travel to either BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston or to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. (Let’s be honest, how many of us remembered it’s now Dignity Health Sports Park?)
And the final will be in Las Vegas, which I hear has nice and temperate early autumns, with highs reaching a balmy 95 degrees. That’s not so bad, I guess.
Anyway, this would put us with at least one extra three-match week — we play on July 20 (Minnesota United) and July 27 (FC Dallas). Going through to the semifinals would lead to another — August 17 (LAFC) and August 24 (Colorado Rapids). The final would see us with yet another, shoved between two road trips: Sept. 15 (Minnesota United) and Sept. 21 (New England). It’s an interesting thing.