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The Leagues Cup will expand to include all Liga MX and MLS clubs in a month-long yearly competition starting in 2023. (Leagues Cup/Facebook)

MLS and Liga MX may be far from merging as of yet, but the two will be collaborating more than ever for a one-month Leagues Cup competition starting in 2023.


Each summer, clubs for North America's two biggest leagues, including Austin FC, will take a pause to compete in the Leagues Cup as part of the Concacaf Champions League competition. Winners of the tournament will be granted automatic qualification in the Champions League round of 16, while second-and third-place clubs will be given automatic admission into the CCL's opening round.

The Leagues Cup is the first of its kind and will be the first major soccer tournament to include every club from two top-flight leagues.

The competition will boost attention to the continent's first division leagues in the years ahead of North America's ambitious 48-country FIFA World Cup in 2026. For the first time, three countries—Canada, Mexico and the United States—will co-host the competition.

"The partnership is rooted in the on-field rivalry but connected by a true spirit of collaboration off the field, with a focus on sharing best practices, growing the beautiful game in North America, and being a force for positive change in the communities of both leagues," the league said in a statement Tuesday.

The Leagues Cup also serves to unite North American soccer culture while fostering rivalries between teams in the two leagues. Liga MX teams often compete with MLS clubs in friendly matches and can be seen going head-to-head in MLS All-Star matches, the annual Campeones Cup, which pits the best club of each league against each other each year, and the current Leagues Cup, a yearly competition between the four top clubs of both leagues.

On the international pitch, the U.S. men's national team last bested reigning Concacaf champions Mexico in the Concacaf Gold Cup, with Canada coming in third. Rivalries continue to intensify between the U.S. and Mexico, which usually alternate championship titles.



Liga MX Executive President Mikel Arriola said the Leagues Cup will serve to boost Concacaf and other Caribbean leagues as well as MLS and Liga MX, which sit at ninth and 14th in world soccer league rankings, respectively.

"This day represents a before and after for the whole North America, Central America and Caribbean regions as they will greatly benefit from this agreement," Arriola said.

The expanded cup also hints at closer relations between the two leagues, which could eventually form a continental super league. Both FIFA President Gianni Infantino and MLS Commissioner Don Garber have hinted at the possibility of a merger in the past.

Players from each league last went head-to-head as the best players from each team tied 1-1 on Aug. 25 at LAFC's Banc of California Stadium, though it was Liga MX's best who prevailed in penalty kicks.

Next up, Seattle Sounders FC will play Liga MX's Club León in the 2021 Leagues Cup Final on Wednesday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The Campeones Cup will see MLS reigning champions Columbus Crew SC host Liga MX's top team Cruz Azul on Sept. 29 to close out international competitions.

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