Leagues Cup: What to expect from the four Liga MX opponents

Starting in late July, a new competition will come to North America in the form of the Leagues Cup, pitting four MLS sides against four from Liga MX in single-elimination style.

When quarterfinal play gets underway July 23 and 24, MLS teams will be deep into their summer grind, looking to make a push up the standings or stave off playoff contenders. Fans will also have a pretty solid sense of the complexion of the sole Eastern Conference side (Chicago Fire) and three from the Western Conference (LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake). The only wild card there will be additions or subtractions during the Secondary Transfer Window, which runs from July 7 to Aug. 8.

But what about the four Liga MX teams in Club America, Cruz Azul, Tigres and Tijuana? There’s a base-level understanding from Concacaf Champions League action earlier this winter and spring, but the Clausura campaign ended in late May and the 2019-20 Apertura won’t begin until late July. 

These Liga MX teams are bound to have a new complexion and team identities will be in the early stages. Nonetheless, here’s a look at what to expect as this new continental tournament gets underway, with the eventual champion crowned Sept. 18.

Club America

Las Aguilas made the semifinals of the 2018-19 Clausura before falling to Club Leon on away goals. But there’s plenty of history at the club, as they hold a record 13 league titles and a record six Copa MX titles. The most-recent ones arrived in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Further, Club America have won a record seven Concacaf Champions League titles, cementing their place as the premier side in North America.

Their captains, striker Oribe Peralta and outside back Paul Aguilar, are well-known to fans of the US-Mexico rivalry, too. Beyond that duo, some centerpieces are Colombian forward Roger Martinez, Ecuadorian winger Renato Ibarra and Paraguayan center back Bruno Valdez.

There’s bound to be some turnover, as with every Liga MX side, but they’ll be strong nonetheless.

Cruz Azul

This past season ended in disappointment for Cruz Azul, as they fell in the Clausura quarterfinals to Club America, narrowly downed 3-2 on aggregate. On the radar for La Maquina is a Supercopa MX final on July 14 against Necaxa, so they’re bound to have an extended preseason.

A familiar face at Cruz Azul is former Orlando City midfielder Yoshi Yotun, as well as former New England Revolution striker Milton Caraglio. A few other centerpieces are Mexican midfielder Orbelin Pineda and Chilean center back Igor Lichnovsky.

Tigres

Ah, the thorn in MLS’s side as of late. This past spring, Tigres knocked the Houston Dynamo out of the CCL, eventually finishing as runners-up to Monterrey. Adding to the trophy cabinet, Tigres just won the 2018-19 Clausura by beating Leon on aggregate, and defeated Toronto FC in the inaugural Campeones Cup last year.

In recent seasons, Tigres have deployed an absolutely lethal attack led by French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac, Mexican winger Javier Aquino, Chilean forward Eduardo Vargas and Ecuadorian forward Enner Valencia.

No matter who Los Felinos trot out on the pitch, they're bound to be a team that can score in bunches.

Oscar Pareja | USA Today Sports

Tijuana

Club Tijuana have a strong American connection, with current/former U.S. internationals such as left back Edgar Castillo (New England Revolution) and midfielder Joe Corona (LA Galaxy) previously on the books. Fringe USMNT striker Rubio Rubin is on the books at Xolos, though on loan at Sinaloa. 

Of note, they’re coached by former FC Dallas manager Oscar Pareja, who left MLS after the 2018 campaign for a new challenge south of the border. With a 4-5-8 record in the Clausura, it was a rickety start for Pareja in charge of his new side, though he did steer them to qualification for the Liguilla (playoffs).

Some other familiar names on the roster are former MLS forwards Fabian Castillo (Dallas) and Erick "Cubo" Torres (Houston).

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