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Orlando City to Participate in 2021 Leagues Cup

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Lions are one of four MLS teams to compete against Liga MX competition this summer.

Cruz Azul v Tigres UANL: Final - 2019 Leagues Cup Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While it was already expected, Orlando City’s participation in this year’s Leagues Cup is now official. The club announced today that Orlando will take part in the competition’s second iteration in August, along with MLS sides Sporting Kansas City, the Seattle Sounders, and New York City FC, as well as four Liga MX clubs that will be determined at the end of the current Clausura season in Mexico.

That means the Lions will, at minimum, host a Liga MX side this summer and could potentially have two additional competitive matches to go along with the club’s Major League Soccer fixtures. Orlando City’s MLS-era, franchise-best 1.78 points per game in 2020 allowed the team to qualify for the competition.

“To have qualified for the Leagues Cup, it means a lot for our franchise and our club,” Orlando City SC Head Coach Oscar Pareja said in a club press release. “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. 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.”

The competition will feature four clubs from each league in a single-elimination format. The participating MLS clubs, which will host the quarterfinal matches, are the top two teams from each conference based on the 2020 regular season standings that are not scheduled to participate in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.

The tournament will be played entirely in the U.S., starting with the quarterfinal matches on Aug. 9. The semifinals will take place Sept. 13, while the final will take place Sept. 20 at a neutral site. Ticketing information for the quarterfinal match in Orlando will be announced at a later date.

“We’re excited to re-start the Leagues Cup and Campeones Cup competitions in 2021 and continue to build on our partnership with Liga MX,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “We have seen the great rivalry that exists on the field between MLS and Liga MX clubs, and these events provide a unique opportunity for fans to see their club compete in meaningful international competition while creating enormous interest and attention for both leagues.”

The competition, which will be Orlando City’s first major international tournament since joining MLS, will be broadcast on Univision and ESPN networks and digital platforms in the United States, TSN and TVA Sports in Canada, and TUDN in Mexico. Concacaf has also announced that the Leagues Cup will have a qualifying slot to the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, starting with the new format in 2023.

Cruz Azul of Liga MX won the inaugural competition in 2019 and the pandemic forced the cancelation of the event in 2020.