The groups for the inaugural edition of the highly anticipated Leagues Cup 2023 were announced on Friday, highlighted by Sporting Kansas City’s placement in Group 3 of the Central Region along with 12-time LIGA MX champions Chivas Guadalajara and MLS upstart FC Cincinnati.
The official Concacaf competition will feature all 47 clubs from LIGA MX and MLS in a World Cup-style tournament from July 21 to Aug. 19 with the champion, as well as the second and third-place finishers, qualifying for the Concacaf Champions League. The fixed bracket and match schedule for Leagues Cup 2023 will be announced in the coming months.
Sporting KC will host Chivas Guadalajara at Children’s Mercy Park this summer in one of the year’s most intriguing home matches headlined by forward Alan Pulido, who arrived in KC in 2020 after starring for Chivas Guadalajara from 2016-2019, as well as Chivas Guadalajara wingers Roberto Alvarado and Alexis Vega who represented Mexico at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Tickets for the marquee match are included in Season Ticket Member packages and the Captain’s Flex Pack to see Sporting take on the 2018 Concacaf Champions League winners for the first time in a competitive match. The clubs previously played to a 2-2 draw at Children’s Mercy Park in October 2011 in an international friendly and a 1-1 draw during the 2009 MLS preseason in Mexico, while Chivas Guadalajara also played in Kansas City in September 2009 against rivals Club America at Arrowhead Stadium.
Sporting, unbeaten in the team’s only two matchups with FC Cincinnati following road results in 2019 and 2020, will make the club’s first trip to the $250 million TQL Stadium – named the Best Venue of 2022 - to face an FC Cincinnati side coming off their best season since joining Major League Soccer in 2019 and competing in the team’s first Concacaf competition. FC Cincinnati, who prevailed 3-1 over Chivas Guadalajara during an exhibition in the 2022 Leagues Cup Showcase, is led by three of the top attacking players in MLS a year ago as Brenner and Brandon Vazquez each recorded 18 goals last season while club captain Luciano Acosta led MLS with 19 assists.
The Leagues Cup 2023 groups are based on clubs' 2022 performance along with their geographic regions. The 15 groups will be broken up into four regions: West (three groups), Central (four groups), South (four groups) and East (four groups).
The top 15 MLS clubs – excluding MLS Cup champion LAFC who qualifies directly into the Round of 32 – have been placed in their corresponding geographic region first, and then based on their position in the final 2022 Supporters’ Shield standings. The top 15 LIGA MX teams, based on the combined Clausura 2022 and Apertura 2022 standings – excluding Pachuca, who received a bye as the LIGA MX champion with the most combined points accumulated across both seasons in 2022 – have been paired in reverse order with the top 15 MLS clubs.
Continuing with the competitive balance criteria, the remaining 13 MLS clubs – including Sporting Kansas City - have been placed in groups, again based first on their geographic region and then based on their position in the final 2022 Supporters’ Shield standings.
Every team will play two matches in the Group Stage with the top two teams from each group, as determined by points, advancing to the Round of 32 in the Knockout Stage. Regulation wins will earn three points and each team will receive one point if the game is tied after 90 minutes, however no matches in the Group Stage will end in a tie. If a game is tied after 90 minutes, the game will proceed to a penalty shootout and the winner of the shootout will earn an additional point.
Beginning this year, MLS and LIGA MX will pause their respective league seasons each summer and all 47 first division clubs in Mexico, the United States and Canada will compete in the tournament. The inaugural Leagues Cup will consist of 77 matches played across the U.S. and Canada.
Fans around the world will be able to watch Leagues Cup on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app, which is available on Apple devices, smart TVs, streaming devices from Roku, Amazon, and Google, game consoles and the web at tv.apple.com. In addition, TelevisaUnivision and FOX Sports will be the linear broadcast home for select matches in Leagues Cup, headlined by the tournament final airing in Spanish on Univision.