Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX announced together on Tuesday that they’ve scrapped this year’s Leagues Cup, a tournament featuring teams from both countries, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Leagues Cup was created last year as basically a second-tier tournament behind the Concacaf Champions League. The field has the top eight MLS teams that don’t make the CCL and eight Mexican teams, drawn in a knockout format.
The Union were to play in this year’s edition after finishing third in the Eastern Conference last year. In fact, they were the best team across MLS that didn’t qualify for the CCL, falling short of the Seattle Sounders by just one standings point.
That means the Union would have been guaranteed at least one home game, a nice treat for fans and a bonus cash injection from ticket sales.
And while the Leagues Cup doesn’t have real stakes like the CCL, whose winner goes to FIFA’s Club World Cup, playing against a Mexican opponent would have been good experience for the Union’s corps of young Americans.
“We were really looking forward to participating,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “The competition with Liga MX is a new and welcome challenge. ... While we’re disappointed, this is much bigger than soccer. Health and safety always come first."
MLS also announced the cancellation of this summer’s All-Star Game, which was to be the first-ever matchup between the league’s selection and a Liga MX All-Star squad. The game was to be played at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, home of LAFC, on July 29. The venue will likely now host next year’s game instead, with the same format.
Lastly, the Campeones Cup, a one-game matchup of the MLS and Liga MX title winners, was called off, too. The Seattle Sounders were to host the Mexican champion, which hadn’t been crowned yet when the pandemic began, on Aug. 12.
Neither MLS nor Liga MX has resumed playing yet. The Washington Post and The Athletic have reported that MLS hopes to restart in July with a neutral-site tournament in Orlando, Fla. ESPN has reported that the Mexican league hopes to restart in July with closed-door games.
If that succeeds, teams could then return to their markets for closed-door games that would run through the fall. There would barely be enough time to have regular-season contests from August through October, and the playoffs in November and December.
It won’t be surprising if the U.S. Open Cup is also called off for the first time in its 107-year history. The USL has already said it doesn’t expect teams in its minor leagues to participate.
As things stand, the Union only this week got clearance to hold individual player workouts, which began Monday at the 76ers’ Fieldhouse complex in Wilmington. Seven MLS teams haven’t been able to do that yet, including Leagues Cup participants D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls.
USL and NWSL teams are also only just now returning to limited practices. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the NWSL is aiming to get its nine teams to the Salt Lake City area for training in the next few weeks, followed by a tournament there in late June. Utah has been less hurt by the pandemic than other states, and the Real Salt Lake/Utah Royals organization has a large academy complex with fields and housing.