On the heels of their success last season, Orlando City SC will have a chance this summer to measure themselves against some of the top teams of Major League Soccer and Liga MX and perhaps earn a spot to the region’s top tournament later down the road.
MLS announced on Tuesday that Sporting Kansas City, Seattle Sounders FC, New York City FC and Orlando will be the four MLS teams that will compete in the 2021 Leagues Cup tournament this August.
“To have qualified for the Leagues Cup, it means a lot for our franchise and our club. Last year we achieved many objectives but this, and having that culture of doing things that can expose our players to mainly international competition, that’s very important,” Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja said in a statement. “We played a final last year, we qualified for the playoffs and having the opportunity to win titles already, this year we want to continue with the same thing.”
As one of the top teams in the east last season, Orlando finished as runners-up in the inaugural MLS is Back tournament, while finishing top four in the Eastern Conference, qualifying for the MLS playoffs for the first time in their history.
The eight-team single-elimination tournament that features clubs from MLS and Mexico’s top flight will commence the week of August 9 with the quarterfinal matches. The Semifinals is slated to begin the week of Sept. 13 with the final scheduled for the week of Sept. 20, which will be played in a neutral site in the United States.
Orlando City is slated to host a quarterfinal match at Exploria Stadium in August, according to the club’s release.
The Liga MX clubs will be confirmed at the end of the 2021 Clausura season in May.
Last year’s Leagues Cup was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bumping the second edition of the tournament to later this summer. The 2019 Leagues Cup champions was Cruz Azul, which defeated Tigres UANL 2-1 in the final at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
The winner of the 2021 Leagues Cup will earn a qualifying slot to the newly-formatted 2023 Concacaf Champions League tournament.
Leagues Cup also announced on Tuesday the return of the Campeones Cup, which will be played between the 2020 MLS Cup champion, Columbus Crew and the winner of Mexico’s Campeón de Campeones competition, which is contested between the winners of the Apertura and Clausura tournaments.
ESPN and Univision will televise the matches in the U.S.
For more soccer news, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer