As Sporting Kansas City prepares for its 26th season as a charter member of Major League Soccer, SportingKC.com is rolling out a 26-day countdown to the start of the 2021 campaign. A mouthwatering opening weekend of MLS action will see Sporting Kansas City visit the New York Red Bulls at 7 p.m. CT on April 17, giving supporters their first look at Manager Peter Vermes’ side since last December.
The 2021 Preseason Countdown, presented by Children’s Mercy, will serve as the comprehensive, go-to preview of everything that awaits Sporting Kansas City in the weeks and months to come. From key storylines and bold predictions to statistical breakdowns and players to watch, the 2021 Preseason Countdown will highlight the many reasons to be excited for what’s ahead. To visit the series homepage as it expands, visit SportingKC.com/2021countdown.
Early last week, a few days before Major League Soccer released the 2021 regular season schedule, Sporting Kansas City was announced as one of eight premier clubs that will compete in Leagues Cup this summer. And if you ask Manager Peter Vermes or any of the players on Sporting's roster, this is a very big deal for a number of reasons.
But hold up, just a minute.
What is Leagues Cup? What's at stake for Sporting and why should we take the competition just as seriously as we take, say, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup?
We've got your Leagues Cup questions answered below.
What is Leagues Cup?
Leagues Cup will see MLS clubs Sporting, Seattle Sounders FC, Orlando City SC and New York City FC join four LIGA MX clubs in a high-level international competition that builds on the growing rivalry between the leagues. The tournament will unfold in a single-game, single-elimination format with MLS teams hosting Liga MX sides in the opening round. Sporting will welcome a LIGA MX opponent in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals on the week of Aug. 9 at Children’s Mercy Park and ticket information for the match will be announced at a later date.
Leagues Cup will be played entirely in the United States, with the semifinals on the week of Sept. 13, and the Leagues Cup Final—which will take place in a neutral venue—slated for the week of Sept. 20.
2021 Leagues Cup Schedule
- Week of Aug. 9: Quarterfinals (Sporting hosts LIGA MX opponent)
- Week of Sept. 13: Semifinals (hosted in the U.S.)
- Week of Sept. 20: Final (neutral-site venue in U.S.)
How did Sporting qualify for Leagues Cup?
MLS representatives in Leagues Cup were selected to participate as the top two finishers from each conference in the 2020 MLS regular season standings that are not scheduled to compete in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. That means Sporting and Seattle from the West and Orlando and NYCFC from the East.
The four LIGA MX teams will be announced in May at the conclusion of the current 2021 Clausura season, along with other schedule, competition and venue details.
Why is Leagues Cup important?
First and foremost, Leagues Cup gives Sporting the opportunity to claim its first major international trophy in team history. Secondly, there will probably be some big-time prize money up for grabs. Thirdly, MLS teams have yet to win a major international tournament since the Concacaf Champions League era began in 2008. In the arms race between MLS and LIGA MX, it's no secret that MLS is behind. But the league has shown legitimate signs of shrinking the gap over the last few years, and if an MLS team can break through to win the competition, it'll be an emphatic statement to say the least.
Beyond growing the MLS-LIGA MX rivalry, Leagues Cup has simply garnered an increased focus from clubs on both sides of the border. Positioned as an important part of the North American soccer landscape, Leagues Cup will have a qualifying slot to the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League beginning in 2023 when the Champions League adopts a new format.
What's the best case scenario for Sporting?
Picture this: Sporting defeats a pair of high-profile LIGA MX opponents at Children's Mercy Park in the quarterfinals and semifinals, then knocks off a third LIGA MX foe in a festive neutral-site final. Beating three straight Mexican clubs en route to the first international trophy in team history? That warrants a painting of the wall.
How can we watch Leagues Cup?
The obvious answer is to buy tickets for all matches at Children's Mercy Park once they become available. Sporting will host the quarterfinal match and stands a good chance of hosting the semifinals if they advance.
For those watching from home, Leagues Cup will be broadcast on the ESPN and Univision family of networks in the United States.