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What is the Leagues Cup? 2023 schedule, expanded format and qualification for MLS and Liga MX clubs

For several years, Major League Soccer and Liga MX have worked together closely in an effort to help grow the game in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Those efforts are taking on a new form starting in 2023 as MLS and Liga MX teams will face off in the revamped Leagues Cup. The divisions are taking the competition so seriously that they will pause domestic action so that clubs can focus on it.

But what is the Leagues Cup, who will play in it and what will it look like? GOAL has answers with everything you need to know about the new-look tournament.

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What is the Leagues Cup and when is it in 2023?

The Leagues Cup, established in 2019, is an annual competition that pits MLS and Liga MX clubs against one another. It started out with four teams from each league participating in a single-elimination tournament.

That first iteration was won by Cruz Azul, who defeated Tigres in the final to win the inaugural trophy. The tournament was then canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but resumed in 2021 with Club Leon defeating the Seattle Sounders 3-2 in the final.

The competition was not held in 2022 - although some exhibition matches were took place under the moniker "Leagues Cup Showcase" - as the two leagues focused on a new format, which will begin in 2023.

The 2023 Leagues Cup will be held from July 21 to August 19, with MLS and Liga MX action paused during that period.

What is the new format for the 2023 Leagues Cup?

Starting in 2023, all 47 teams from MLS and Liga MX will enter into a new-look competition featuring a World Cup-style tournament. It will begin with a group stage followed by knockout rounds, with teams separated into four regions: East, West, South and Central.

A total of 77 games will be hosted at MLS stadiums throughout the U.S. and Canada.

How will the Leagues Cup group stage work?

2022 MLS Cup champions LAFC will skip the group stage and start play in the round of 32, while Pachuca, the winner of Liga MX's Clausura or Apertura title with the most points accumulated between the two tournaments, will also skip right to the knockouts.

Every other club will play a minimum of two matches in the group stage, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockouts.

A group stage draw occurred on January 20, 2023. The results of the draw are below:

MLS clubs ranked two through 16 in the 2022 Supporters' Shield standings have been be given the first seed in each group, while Liga MX clubs ranked two through 16 in their combined seasons have been paired on the opposite side. For example, Liga MX's 15 will play MLS No.2, while Liga MX's No.3 will play MLS' 14.

The remaining 13 teams were then be drawn into groups and divided by geography.

There will be no ties in the Leagues Cup group stage. At the end of regulation, if scores are level, both teams will receive one point, with the winner of a penalty shootout getting an additional point.

How will the Leagues Cup knockout rounds work?

The knockouts will be single elimination all the way through, starting with a round of 32 all the way to an eventual final and third-place game.

The winner of the eventual third-place match will earn a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, while both finalists will also earn spots in the CCL. The winner, though, will skip straight to the CCL last 16.

How can you watch 2023 Leagues Cup?

All matches will be available on Apple TV, which will also broadcast MLS games this year.