Minnesota United and Major League Soccer today announced that the club has been placed in group West 6 with Club Necaxa (neh-KAK-sa) of LIGA MX and Seattle Sounders FC of MLS during the group stage of Leagues Cup 2024, the international soccer competition featuring all 47 clubs from Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The month-long tournament, which will crown a winner among MLS and LIGA MX clubs, will unfold from July 26 to August 25, 2024, setting the stage for historic and emerging North American club rivalries.
For the very first time, Minnesota United is set to face Club Necaxa of LIGA MX during the Group Stage of Leagues Cup 2024. Founded in 1923, Necaxa – nicknamed “Los Rayos” (“The Lightning”) – finished 18th in the 2023 LIGA MX Apertura standings with a 3-8-6 (W-L-D) record. The historic Mexican club was formed when Scottish engineer William H. Fraser desired to bring a soccer team to the Light and Power company he owned and operated near the Necaxa River in the Mexican state of Puebla. After relocation to the city of Aguascalientes, Los Rayos have called Estadio Victory their home since 2003. In its over 100 years of competition, Necaxa has captured three topflight trophies, most recently in 1998, in addition to eight Copa MX titles. Notably, Los Rayos have won two Concacaf Champions Cups (1974 and 1999) – holding the title of the top club in North America, Central America and the Caribbean during those two years. Necaxa additionally represented Concacaf in the 2000 FIFA Club World Cup hosted in Brazil, ultimately defeating Real Madrid (Spain) to earn the third-place spot.
Minnesota is also set to face Seattle Sounders FC, a fellow Western Conference team in MLS. Sounders FC is one of the most successful soccer clubs in the league since joining as an expansion club in 2009, having most recently captured the acclaimed Concacaf Champions Cup title in 2022. Seattle has won two MLS Cups (2016 and 2019), along with four U.S. Open Cup championships (2009, 2010, 2011, 2014) and a Supporters’ Shield (2014). The Sounders play at Lumen Field in downtown Seattle, Washington. Seattle finished in seventh in the 2023 Supporters’ Shield standings with a 14-9-11 (W-L-D) record and 53 points.
During the inaugural Leagues Cup tournament last year, the Loons reached the Quarterfinals stage, ultimately falling to Nashville SC, who was the eventual runner-up. In the lead-up to that Quarterfinals appearance, MNUFC defeated Club Puebla (LIGA MX) and lost to Chicago Fire FC (MLS) in the Group Stage. The Loons advanced to the Knockout Rounds, first traveling to face the Columbus Crew (MLS) in the Round of 32, advancing following a penalty shootout. In the Round of 16, Minnesota hosted Club Deportivo Toluca (LIGA MX), also advancing after a penalty shootout. Notably, Loons’ winger Bongokuhle Hlongwane scored seven (7) goals in the entirety of the tournament, where he was second behind only Inter Miami CF midfielder Lionel Messi’s 10 goals score.
Leagues Cup 2024 Format
Moving forward, the tournament will introduce a tiered Leagues Cup Ranking system, as well as hubs for the highest-ranked LIGA MX clubs. The Leagues Cup ranking will be strictly based on combined MLS and LIGA MX club performance based on points in the last 34 regular season matches. MLS teams will be ranked based on the 2023 MLS Supporters’ Shield standings, while LIGA MX clubs will be ranked based on the cumulative 34 matches in the 2023 Clausura and Apertura tournaments.
All participating clubs – except the two Leagues’ champions - are divided into three tiers based on the Leagues Cup Ranking (1-15, 16-30, 31-45), forming 15 groups of three clubs each, one club from each tier, prioritizing geographical and competitive balance among the 45 clubs. For 2024, Leagues Cup will be played in two regions, East and West, with seven groups in the East and eight groups in the West, regionalizing travel for all participating clubs. Like the 2023 format, both LIGA MX and MLS Cup champions, Club America and Columbus Crew respectively, receive an automatic bye to the Round of 32. The two champions are not included in the Leagues Cup Ranking.
The LIGA MX Champion and the three top-ranked LIGA MX clubs will be granted hub privileges. The hub privileges, which will minimize LIGA MX club travel and reward them by playing in pre-determined venues as the home team, are based on the Leagues Cup Ranking. Club America (League champion with a bye) will have hosting privileges through the semifinals, C.F. Monterrey (No. 1 rank) through Round of 16, Chivas Guadalajara (No. 4 rank) through Round of 32, and Tigres (No. 6 rank) throughout the Group Stage, rewarding the clubs according to their 2023 Apertura and Clausura performances.
LIGA MX clubs with hub privileges will play at venues to be announced alongside the Leagues Cup 2024 schedule and bracket at a later date.
This new format, based on the Leagues Cup Ranking, was a joint collaborative effort of the Leagues Cup Organizing Committee, comprising representatives from Leagues Cup, and both MLS and LIGA MX leadership. Considerations included rewarding regular season results and geographical regions while addressing learnings from 2023.
Knockout Rounds: Following the Group Stage, the advancing 30 teams will be joined by LIGA MX and MLS cup champions (Columbus Crew and Club America, respectively) and will be placed in a fixed bracket to compete in the single-game elimination Knockout Rounds beginning with the Round of 32 (16 matches), followed by Round of 16 (eight matches). The eight advancing teams will compete in the Quarterfinals (four matches) before the two Semifinal matches. Leagues Cup 2024 Third Place and Final will determine the three Concacaf Champions Cup qualified clubs.
No Ties: Leagues Cup will maintain its current No Ties format. Each team receives one point if the game is tied after 90 minutes. The winner of the subsequent penalty shootout will earn an additional point. Regulation wins count as three points, with games being decided by penalty kick in case of regular time draw.
Fans in over 100 countries and regions will be able to watch all 77 Leagues Cup matches on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app, the subscription service from Apple and Major League Soccer that is available on smart TVs, streaming devices, Apple devices, set-top boxes, game consoles, and the web at tv.apple.com. In addition, TelevisaUnivision, TV Azteca, FOX Sports (FS1), TSN and RDS will be the linear broadcast home for selected group stage matches in Mexico, United States and Canada.
Tickets for all matches will be available on LeaguesCup.com and will also be available to fans via the hosting MLS club. MLS club season ticket holders should contact their club representative for more information or visit LeaguesCup.com and follow @LeaguesCup on social.