The 2021 Leagues Cup gets underway Tuesday evening when a pair of Western Conference heavyweights kick off the proceedings. Sporting Kansas City will take on Club León at Children's Mercy Park (8 pm ET | ESPN2, TUDN), while the Seattle Sounders follow up with their clash against Tigres UANL at Lumen Field (10 pm ET | ESPN2, TUDN).
What type of lineup will head coaches Peter Vermes and Brian Schmetzer field? And what would a victorious run for any of the four MLS representatives (New York City FC and Orlando City SC are the other two) mean for the clubs and the league as a whole?
Self-appointed Leagues Cup hype man and Extratime co-host Andrew Wiebe kicked off the debate on Monday's episode, saying that while he understands the inevitable concerns regarding fixture congestion, he feels strongly that the MLS clubs should go for broke to the fullest extent possible.
"If I was Peter Vermes, I would play the best team I can," Wiebe said. "I would play the team that I think is not going to cripple me in the short term or medium term, but I would play the strongest possible team I can, because it's not just about what's going to happen with the Supporters' Shield down the line. Those odds are so nebulous, anything could happen in the next four to five months. This is what's in front of you right now, it's an opportunity to prove to yourselves that you can do this because, by the way, MLS teams are only starting to do that in Concacaf Champions League, and haven't yet done it to the ultimate point."
Leagues Cup is still in its early stages (this is only the second edition), but Wiebe said he's fully supportive of another platform for MLS teams to earn regional superiority.
"I think where all these teams want to go is to the Club World Cup eventually," Wiebe said. "Now, will this get them there? No, it won't. Will it be an opportunity to perhaps have three games against high, high-level competition that you don't normally get in scheduling apparatus'? Yes. So take it, test yourself, see where you stand against Liga MX. That's the whole point of all this stuff, is to see where we stand and the next time we'll level up. So to me, all these teams should be taking it seriously.
"I think this competition is only going to get bigger," he added. "I am fascinated by it, any time I can watch MLS vs. Liga MX I will absolutely do it."
Co-host David Gass said the matchup that carries the most intrigue is the Seattle-Tigres bout, due in part to Seattle's crop of young talent that's just starting to break into the first team. Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz is another player to keep an eye on, as a former two-time Liga MX Golden Boot winner from his Morelia days.
"I think Seattle's proven that even if they were to rotate, they went and beat Austin with the kids, so I'd love to see that again," Gass said. "I'd love to see all those kids get an opportunity in a moment like this. Tigres won CCL last year, so they're still one of the giants of the region, they're still one of the best squads.
"And Ruidiaz, you saw it with [Lucas] Zelarayan in CCL. For players who came from Liga MX, there's a chip on their shoulder when they play against clubs from there. So it's an opportunity for him to show how good he is, that he is the Golden Boot winner in this league, he can be all those things."
For more from Extratime on Leagues Cup and all the current happenings in MLS, check out the full episode here.