Leagues Cup predictions: Who will win quarterfinal games?


Four quarterfinals, eight teams. Soon, the 2023 Leagues Cup field reduces even further in the buildup to the August 19 final.

With six MLS sides and two Liga MX clubs still in contention, let's take stock of where everyone stands and who could keep their tournament dreams alive beyond Friday evening. 

Philadelphia Union (MLS) vs. Querétaro FC (Liga MX)
Aug. 11, 8 pm ET | East Region

This is the only quarterfinal bout that features a rematch between two sides that previously met in the Leagues Cup group stage. Philadelphia dominated that initial July 26 match, taking a 5-1 victory led by midfielder Dániel Gazdag scoring a hat trick.

That leaves them as the favorites at Subaru Park, though Jim Curtin’s group likely won't coast past the Liga MX outfit as easily. It’s difficult to defeat a team twice in a row (resoundingly or not), plus that result seemed to act as a wake-up call for Querétaro. Los Gallos Blancos have fared better in victorious results over Club Tijuana, Pumas UNAM and a Round-of-16 penalty-kick triumph over the New England Revolution to reach this point.

With a semifinal berth on the line this time, and Union goalkeeper Andre Blake still a true game-changer, there's an obvious choice here. Philadelphia are also among the most dominant home sides in MLS, going 8W-1L-2D at Subaru Park in league play this season.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union

Inter Miami CF (MLS) vs. Charlotte FC (MLS)
Aug. 11, 8:30 pm ET | South Region

The Lionel Messi show churns onward at DRV PNK Stadium, where Inter Miami CF return as hosts after emerging as penalty-kick victors at FC Dallas in the Round of 16.

That was one of the best matches of the tournament, and credit to Inter Miami for pulling out a miracle comeback. But it also demonstrated how the new-look Herons aren't necessarily invincible, even with Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba now running the show. FC Dallas hit Tata Martino’s group for four goals, showing that if you can capitalize on Miami's defensive vulnerabilities (especially on counterattacks), a borderline 50-50 proposition emerges.

That said, based on their league-high 40 goals allowed in MLS play, Charlotte FC don't strike me as especially well-equipped to corral a team with as much firepower as Inter Miami now boast. I’m taking Messi and Co. to advance rather comfortably.

Prediction: Inter Miami CF

Nashville SC (MLS) vs. Minnesota United FC (MLS)
Aug. 11, 8:30 pm ET | Central Region

Both of these teams are coming off dramatic penalty-kick victories in the Round of 16, creating positive momentum for a GEODIS Park showdown. Something has to give, though, and I actually think Minnesota have a solid chance to pull off the road upset.

For one, as head coach Adrian Heath pointed out, the Loons have five wins on the road this year, which is tied for the second-most in MLS behind Real Salt Lake’s six. In Emanuel Reynoso, the in-form Bongokuhle Hlongwane and new striker addition Teemu Pukki, they also have players talented enough to go blow-for-blow with Hany Mukhtar and new No. 9 Sam Surridge and to get at Nashville SC’s notoriously stingy defense.

Keep an eye on Hlongwane as the X-factor here. The South African international is in the form of his life, tied atop the Golden Boot race with Messi at seven goals, and a hot forward can take you far in a tournament.

Nashville SC are the on-paper favorite at home, but I’m going outside the box: Minnesota pick off another PK victory behind goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair.

Prediction: Minnesota United FC

LAFC (MLS) vs. CF Monterrey (Liga MX)
Aug. 11, 10:30 pm ET | West Region

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This is easily the hardest quarterfinal to predict, pitting two of the odds-on favorites to win the whole thing against one another. They're both in form and have, at times, looked borderline unstoppable in attack. It really could go either way and whoever wins it should feel great about their chances of lifting the Leagues Cup trophy.

My honest answer on which team emerges victorious from the Rose Bowl is that I have no idea. But since I have to pick one, I’ll take LAFC. As dominant as Monterrey looked in the group stage, their last two victories have been on the margins (1-0 against the Portland Timbers and 1-0 against Tigres UNAL). LAFC, meanwhile, are more rested and have won their last two matches over FC Juárez and Real Salt Lake by a combined score of 11-1.

In a toss-up like this, I think the home side in better attacking form has the slight edge. That's even with LAFC star Carlos Vela an injury-related question mark.

Prediction: LAFC