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Leagues Cup Preview: Sporting KC vs. Club Leon

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Sporting Kansas City welcome Leon to Children’s Mercy Park on Tuesday.

Queretaro v Leon - Torneo Grita Mexico A21 Liga MX Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Sporting KC (MLS) vs. Club Leon (Liga MX)

When: Tuesday, August 10, 2021 at 7:00 PM CT

Where: Children’s Mercy Park

How to Watch/Stream: ESPN2 and TUDN (ESPN App)
How to Listen: Sports Radio 810 WHB | La Grande 1340 AM (Spanish)

Sporting Kansas City enter Tuesday’s Leagues Cup game against Liga MX side Club Leon having played a ton in the last week plus. Four games in 11 days. And there are just two days off between Sporting’s smoke-filled trip to play the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Leon, as with the last three SKC opponents, enter having more rest. They last played a game on Thursday, so they’ll have an extra couple days rest before coming to Kansas City.

What is the Leagues Cup?

A cash gra A competition between MLS and Liga MX teams that just came into existence in 2019. The only previous edition of the tournament came in that inaugural 2019 year with only the LA Galaxy advancing out of the quarterfinals of the four MLS teams involved (Houston, Chicago and RSL were all eliminated). The final was between Cruz Azul and Tigres, with Cruz Azul winning.

The 2020 version was cancelled due to COVID but here we are in 2021 with it going on. Qualification is a bit murky. Sporting KC won the West in 2020 so presumably would have gotten the last CONCACAF Champions League spot but due to some US Soccer finagling, the 2019 US Open Cup winners, Atlanta United, were given that spot.

Previously, Liga MX and MLS teams played in the North American SuperLiga from 2007 to 2010 and the leagues still come together to play the Campeones Cup, a competition between league winners in the summer. Clubs from both leagues are also represented in CCL, with Liga MX holding a perfect record in that competition so far.

Outside of a trophy, it’s unclear that winning Leagues Cup provides anything other than bragging rights.

Who’s in Leagues Cup 2021?

Sporting KC are joined by MLS clubs NYCFC, Orlando City and Seattle Sounders (arguably the best of the best MLS has to offer right now outside of the New England Revolution if you look at the standings). Club Leon are joined by Tigres, Pumas and Santos Laguna. The MLS clubs are all hosting the first round (quarterfinals) this week and hosting of subsequent games hasn’t been announced, but the semifinals will be on September 14th and 15th and the finals will be in Las Vegas (at the Raiders Allegiant Stadium) on September 22nd.

Here is the full quarterfinal schedule courtesy of SportingKC.com:

  • Sporting KC vs. Leon | Tuesday, Aug. 10, 7 pm CT (ESPN2, TUDN, TSN)
  • Seattle Sounders vs. Tigres | Tuesday, Aug. 10, 9 pm CT (ESPN2, TUDN, TSN)
  • NYCFC vs. Pumas | Wednesday, Aug. 11, 7 pm CT (ESPN+, TUDN, TSN)
  • Orlando City vs. Santos | Thursday, Aug. 12, 6 pm CT (ESPN+, TUDN, TSN)

Who are Club Leon?

Club Leon, commonly known as Leon, are a historical club in Mexico having won eight league titles and five Copa MX titles. Most recently, the won the Apertura (summer season) title in 2020.

  • League Titles: Eight (1947-48, 1948-49, 1951-52, 1955-56, 1991-92, Apertura 2013, Clausura 2014, Apertura 2020)
  • Copa MX Titles: Five (1948-49, 1957-58, 1966-67, 1970-71, 1971-72)

They’ve also won five second division titles as Liga MX has promotion and relegation between their leagues (though just one team is relegated from Liga MX each season).

Injuries/Availability*

Sporting KC

OUT - Felipe Hernandez (personal reasons)

QUESTIONABLE - Khiry Shelton (abdomen), Nicolas Isimat-Mirin (hamstring)

Leon

OUT - Fernando Navarro (injury), Luis Montes (injury)

QUESTIONABLE - Unknown

What to Expect on Tuesday

It’s hard to know what lineup either club will bring. It’s rumored that Leon plan to run out a younger lineup, but here are both team’s 25-man rosters.

The only SKC players missing are Felipe Hernandez (who is unavailable anyways), Tyler Freeman (who recently went on loan to 2. Bundesliga), fourth string goalkeeper Brooks Thompson and new signing Jose Mauri.

Leon enter the game off back-to-back Liga MX wins over Queretaro and Club Tijuana. They were crushed 4-0 in their season opener against Pachuca. Going back and watching the highlights there isn’t much to be taken from the wins. The win over Tijuana was an ugly game with three penalty kicks and the win over Queretaro had such bad storms the game had to be stopped and they don’t appear to be a particularly good team.

It seems like a game, if SKC really do put their best lineup forward, they could win. Then again, heavy travel, minimal rest and a piling up injury report makes me think it’s not worth it. It’s not like Peter Vermes to not try to win a trophy when he can though, so I suspect he’ll go all out.

Prediction: 2-1 SKC Win