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Sporting KC Play this Weekend. What is the Leagues Cup?

We break down the format of the competition, what is at stake, Sporting KC’s schedule and some guy named Messi is in this thing.



'Wait, we don't get a month vacation.' - Alan Pulido (probably) | Credit: Thad Bell

If you Google “Sporting KC schedule,” as I often do, up until a couple days ago you’d see no games listed for quite a while. However, that is incorrect. Sporting Kansas City are in action for at least the next two weekends and it’s something a bit revolutionary. The Leagues Cup.

Now, it’s possible you’ve heard of the Leagues Cup and this is in fact not even the first time Sporting KC have played in it (they were embarrassed by Leon two years ago in this competition). But this isn’t your father’s Leagues Cup. This is a whole new competition that has been greatly expanded. Additionally, Major League Soccer is taking the unprecedented step of pausing their season for a month to play this competition alongside Liga MX teams.

The Format

47 teams from the United States, Canada and Mexico will face off over 77 matches. All 29 MLS teams (including the three Canadian teams) will face off with all 18 of the Liga MX teams. LAFC and Pachuca will receive byes and not need to play in the group stage.

The remaining 45 teams have been broken into 15 groups of three. The top 15 seeded MLS teams will host two matches and will be placed into groups in reverse order of the top 15 Liga MX teams. Basically, if you are bad, as Sporting KC were in 2022 (and seemingly still are at times), then you only get to host one game in the group stage (all the Mexican teams are on the road). The draw is “geographical,” though that’s a bit laughable with Chivas being pretty far South and West, but all of Mexico is basically to the West of Missouri and literally all of it is West of Cincinnati.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the Round of 32 and will be joined by LAFC and Pachuca. Points for the competition are similar to what you are used to, three points for a win and one point for a draw. However, there are no ties in Leagues Cup. Like in MLS Next Pro, games tied after 90 minutes go straight to penalties and the winner of the shootout gets an extra point.

The knockout rounds also go to penalties after just 90 minutes, no extra time will be played.


Since it’s quite possible the second and third place teams could be tied, there is an extensive list of tiebreakers (per Wikipedia).

The ranking of teams in the group stage is determined as follows:

  1. Points obtained in all group matches;
  2. Direct head-to-head match result between the tied clubs (for clarity, a win in penalty kicks is a win for purposes of this tiebreaker);
  3. Better goal differential between goals scored and goals conceded during the group stage;
  4. Greater number of goals scored during the group stage;
  5. Fewer number of goals conceded during the group stage;
  6. Clubs fair play table
    • First yellow card: –1 point
    • Second yellow card (indirect red card): –3 points (The first yellow card will not be considered)
    • Direct red card: –3 points
    • Yellow card followed by a direct red card: –4 points;
  7. A draw organized by the organizing committee.

What’s on the Line?

Unlike in previous versions of the Leagues Cup where only a few teams are involved and it held no significant meaning, there are things to be won that matter. The winner of the competition will qualify directly for the 2024 CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16. The second and third place teams also get into CCL but enter in round one.

However, Sporting KC fans surely remember being in the 2019 CCL and it destroying their season. Who knows what that prize is actually worth.

What Should Sporting KC Fans Know?

Kansas City are guaranteed two games. They’ll start this Sunday on the road at FC Cincinnati, literally the best team in MLS (by a wide margin). That game is at 6:30 PM CT and can be watched through Apple MLS Season Pass. Then, midweek Cincy and Chivas face off before Chivas travels to Children’s Mercy Park for a game on Monday, July 31st at 9:00 PM CT (to accommodate fans in Mexico watching surely).

Chivas Guadalajara are a famous and popular team in Mexico, and you likely know of them at least because that is where Alan Pulido was purchased from for a record transfer fee. Chivas were also very strong this past season, advancing all the way to the Clausura Final before losing to Tigres. They were the third seed entering that playoff competition.

If Sporting KC don’t advance out of the group stage, they will have a huge break and not play again until hosting the San Jose Earthquakes on August 26th.

What Else to Know

The Leagues Cup kicks off this Friday and they are doing it with a bang. The first game on the schedule is Cruz Azul against last place Inter Miami CF. On the surface, it looks like a nothing game, but some guy named Messi is making his debut for Miami (it’s kind of a shame that game overlaps the start of the Women’s World Cup for the USWNT). He’ll be joined by quite a few friends in the coming days too.

(I need a David Greenwald rage article about how Miami are definitely cheating.)

Overall, I’m personally all in on the Leagues Cup. CCL often leaves MLS teams at a disadvantage against Mexican teams as it’s preseason for MLS while Liga MX clubs are deep into their season. If anything, Liga MX teams should be at a disadvantage because they are now in preseason and haven’t played in a couple months and all these games are on the road (though I expect them to have good support at the MLS stadiums). If MLS teams cannot capitalize, then that’s on them and maybe it’ll push the league to change the way it structures salaries (they spend plenty of money, but in weird, restrictive ways).

Additionally, the pausing of the season means the game aren’t jammed in during the middle of the week (for some teams) and gives teams a chance to play their best lineup (if they choose to do so).

Check out the full Leagues Cup Schedule and give us your thoughts in the comments about how you think Sporting Kansas City will fair.

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