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MLS and Liga MX officially launch Leagues Cup

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NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX are launching an annual competition called the Leagues Cup but are not including MLS champion Atlanta United.

Eight teams will participate in the single-elimination tournament, which starts July 23-24 with quarterfinals.

U.S. teams are all home for the quarterfinals, which feature Chicago Fire-Cruz Azul and LA Galaxy-Club Tijuana on July 23, followed by Houston Dynamo-Club America and Real Salt Lake-Tigres the following day. Tigres is the reigning Clausura champion.

Semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 20, and the final will be at a U.S. venue on Sept. 18.

MLS and the Mexican league launched a SuperLiga competition that began in 2007 and stopped after 2010.

MLS said Wednesday that Mexican teams were picked based on results in recent competitions and MLS teams were invited.

Report: MLS, Liga MX competition to be called Leagues Cup

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The new MLS and Liga MX competition seems to be taking a page out of the FA and soccer associations around the world.

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According to a report in The Athletic, the eight-team annual tournament set to begin in 2019 will be called the Leagues Cup. Per the report, the MLS teams that will be involved are the Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake. They’ll be opposing Cruz Azul, Club America, Club Tijuana and Tigres UANL. In addition quarterfinal matchups will kick off on July 21, with these matchups:

Real Salt Lake v. Tigres
Houston Dynamo v. Club America
Chicago Fire v. Cruz Azul
LA Galaxy v. Club Tijuana

It’s unclear of why MLS chose these clubs, though it could be for marketing purposes with plenty of Liga MX fans in Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. As of now, all four clubs have matches for that first weekend during July 21, so it would involve some interesting scheduling arrangements.

The report states that, unsurprisingly, all the matches for this tournament will be played in the U.S. Unlike the CONCACAF Champions League, an actual competition pitting each league’s best teams in the confederation, the Leagues Cup is clearly a way for MLS and Liga MX to get their hands on even more ticket and sponsorship money by bringing more Mexican clubs to the U.S. for games with more meaning than a random summer friendly match.

Ultimately, if this tournament does take the teams that didn’t finish atop their leagues, then perhaps it gives those teams in the MLS mid-tier a chance to test themselves against Liga MX competition.

Monterrey wins CONCACAF Champions League

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Nicolas Sanchez’s 25th minute penalty on Wednesday gave Monterrey its fourth CONCACAF Champions League title via a 2-1 aggregate win over UANL Tigres.

The 1-1 second leg draw followed last week’s 1-0 away win for Rayados.

Winners in 2011, 2012, and 2013 prior to this campaign, Rayados now have the fourth-most titles in CCL history.

It’s a very rough third CCL final loss in four years for UANL.

[ MORE: Messi reacts to win ]

Marc-Andre Gignac scored for Tigres in the loss.

After sneaking past Honduran side Alianza 1-0 in the first round, Monterrey hit its stride with a comfortable quarterfinal defeat of Atlanta United and a straight-up demolition of Sporting KC in the semis.

Tigres’ former West Ham man Enner Valencia led the tournament in scoring, while Sanchez paced the champions with five.

An MLS team has not won the tournament under its current name, the league last lifting a trophy via the LA Galaxy in 2000.

MLS, Mexico impress in study of global attendance figures

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A study of attendance figures in global soccer has thrown up a few surprises.

The CIES Football Observatory have taken a deep dive into the attendance figures over the past five years, and both Major League Soccer and Liga MX have come been praised for their growth.

Based on average attendance the Bundesliga and Premier League lead the way with average crowds of 43,302 and 36,675 respectively, with Spain’s La Liga in third with 27,381 and Mexico’s Liga MX in fourth with 25,582 fans per game.

MLS has seen the second-highest growth rate in attendance figures in the globe from 2003-18, with only attendances in the Polish first division growing at a quicker in that 15-year period.

The report concludes that Mexico’s Liga MX is the best league in the world for attendances outside of Europe, while the U.S., Canada and China are showing strong levels of growth.

“Outside of Europe, Mexican clubs attract the biggest crowds. The study of the changes since 2003 reveals the growing enthusiasm for football in the United States and Canada. Despite the increase in the number of teams participating in the MLS, average attendances have consistently increased to break the 20,000-spectator threshold over the past five years. This limit has also been broken in China, where football’s popularity is henceforth well established too.”

Of course, many will argue that the announced attendances in MLS are someway short of the actual fans at the games, and that’s fair enough. But there’s no doubting that the addition of Toronto FC, the Seattle Sounders, Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati and LAFC have significantly increased attendance figures across MLS.

When it comes to attendances for individual teams, Borussia Dortmund lead the way with an average crowd of 80,230 and then come Manchester United with 75,218 and Barcelona at 74,876.

Below is a look at some of the tables produced by CIES, which is intriguing to have a look at. Check out Sunderland (in England’s third-tier!) in 38th place globally, and a strong contingent of Chinese Super League teams in the top 52.

Veracruz docked points by FIFA, down to zero in Liga MX standings

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Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz fans received more grim news on Monday, just weeks after they were confirmed relegation from Liga MX.

FIFA’s disciplinary committee announced that it was, through Liga MX, docking Veracruz six points. Considering the club only has four points in the current Clausura campaign, it means that Veracruz is down to zero points. The club were docked the points over a failure to pay training compensation fees to Montevideo Wanderers for Matias Santos. Santos only played one Copa MX match for Veracruz before moving back to Uruguay to join Defensor Sporting, but despite Santos’ brief time in Veracruz, it appears the club did not pay for his rights.

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Veracruz has been in trouble almost since club owner Fidel Kuri purchased the rights to another promoted team and moved it to Veracruz, effectively giving Veracruz a team. However, Kuri has been in trouble with Liga MX and the Mexican Football Federation before. He was suspended in 2016 for arguing with the league’s head of referees. He threatened to move the club away if he didn’t win a local election. And he’s reportedly been involved in a gentlemen’s agreement with other Liga MX owners to keep wages and transfer fees down.

Yet despite all the club’s struggles and relegations, Kuri has said that he will pay Liga MX’s “fine” of $6.34 million to keep Veracruz in the top division. It appears Veracruz’s story isn’t over yet. Stay tuned.