Well, well, well.
The first edition of the Leagues Cup, the summer madness that will see MLS and Liga MX locking antlers for a month, starts this week, with Lionel Messi possibly making his debut for Inter Miami in their game against Cruz Azul on Friday, July 21.
Not too shabby.
However, the Leagues Cup is way more than Lionel Messi, and here we have created a quick guide for MLS fans in which they can know a little bit more about their Liga MX opponents and if they should be worried or not, thanks to our revolutionary fear-o-meter.
Liga MX teams in the Leagues Cup: A quick guide for MLS fans
Nickname: Las Águilas (The Eagles) Los Azulcrema (The Blues and Cream).
Liga MX titles: 13 (last title in Apertura 2018).
How did they do in the last tournament? As the most winning team in Mexico, América are always expected to win. So being eliminated in semifinals by Chivas, their biggest nemesis, didn't sit well among their fans. Objectively, they have one of the best teams in the league, but they fell short in their objective.
Best player: Henry Martín. He was Liga MX's top scorer during the Clausura 2023 with 14 goals.
Strongest quality: Their attacking line is a wonder. Martín is a prolific striker, but he owes a lot to the players he has around: Diego Valdés, Jonathan Rodríguez and USMNT forward Alejandro Zendejas. On top of that, they just signed Julián Quiñones from Atlas, arguably the most exciting player in the league.
Weakest spot: Whatever is going in their defense. As an attacking-minded team, there are spaces to cover and that job is often not done properly, leaving them exposed to counterattacks. They also have some issues dealing with aerial set pieces.
Leagues Cup group: Central 1 (St. Louis City, Columbus Crew).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?): 9/10. Despite their defensive vulnerabilities, América is a dominant side with a terrifying attack.
Nickname: Rojinegros (The Black and Red), Zorros (The Foxes)
Liga MX titles: 3 (last title in Clausura 2022, back-to-back champions)
How did they do in the last tournament? They were off to a slow and bumpy start, but managed to get into the playoffs. They tied Chivas in their quarterfinal tie, but lost due to Chivas having finished higher in the regular season table (higher position team qualifies when aggregate score ends in a draw).
Best player: Camilo Vargas. The fact that the Colombian goalkeeper is known as 'Saint Camilo' among Atlas fans tells the story.
Strongest quality: Camilo Vargas saves and Brian Lozano free kicks.
Weakest spot: Their attack. After the Julián Quiñones and Julio Furch exits this summer, Atlas don't have enough firepower in the squad.
Leagues Cup group: East 3 (NYCFC, Toronto FC).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?) 6/10. Atlas is a tough team, but without Quiñones and Furch, they look like a toothless monster.
Atlético de San Luis
Nickname: Rojiblancos (The Red and Whites).
Liga MX titles: 0.
How did they do in the last tournament? Despite ending 12th during the regular phase, Atlético de San Luis managed to secure a spot in the playoffs. They lost against América in quarterfinals, but boy, they gave them a run for their money. Their performance was so good that coach André Jardine is now América's manager.
Best player: Rodrigo Dourado. The Brazilian is the pumping heart of this team.
Strongest quality: The speed in the wings. Jhon Murillo and Vitinho are really good in transition, and if they have space, they can cause some heavy damage.
Weakest spot: A new coach. Nothing against Gustavo Jose Da Silva, but the team is just starting to getting used to his tactics after three tournaments under Jardine's orders, causing some mishaps.
Leagues Cup group: East 4 (New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?) 6/10. Mid grades for a mid-table club.
Nickname: Chivas (Goats), Rebaño Sagrado (Sacred Herd).
Liga MX titles: 12 (last title in Clausura 2017).
How did they do in the last tournament? They surprised everyone and after a great debut season with Veijlko Paunovic, they went through to the final after defeating rivals Atlas and América in the playoffs. They were up 2-0 vs. Tigres the final after halftime, but ended up choking and losing the game 3-2 at home — one of the most devastating losses in the club’s whole history.
Best player: Alexis Vega (when he’s not unfit enough to play more than 60 minutes a game).
Strongest quality: Their unity. From players, to coaching staff, all the way with the fans all over the country.
Weakest spot: Being limited to a Mexican-only transfer policy.
Leagues Cup group: Central 3 (FC Cincinnati, Sporting Kansas City).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?): 8/10. Chivas look like a team that have found their mojo.
Nickname: La Máquina (The Machine), Los Cementeros (The Cementers), Los Celestes (The Light Blues)
Liga MX titles: 9 (last title in Guardianes 2021).
How did they do in the last tournament? It was a disappointing tournament for one of the so called Big Four of Liga MX. They ended 8th in the regular phase and were quickly eliminated in the play-in by Atlas.
Best player: Carlos Rodríguez. He is the creative mind behind this team, but he tends to be a little bit inconsistent.
Strongest quality: Their history. Honestly, we don't know where this Cruz Azul is going, but they are a team with relative success in international cups. I mean, they have six Concacaf Champions League titles under their belt. The question is, will they remember their glorious past or not?
Weakest spot: Goalkeepers. After the veteran Jesús Corona's exit, Andrés Gudiño and Sebastián Jurado are battling to become the man between the posts. Both lack experience, and on top of that, Jurado often provides howlers that increase our click count.
Leagues Cup group: South 3 (Inter Miami, Atlanta United)
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?): 5/10. The team is lost in the woods, trying to figure out who they are, and in the journey, they have lost all three games they played in the Apertura 2023. Maybe the return of Carlos Rodríguez and Uriel Antuna, who were with Mexico in the Gold Cup, could help them find the light.
Nickname: Bravos (The Braves), Los Fronterizos (The Ones on the Border)
Liga MX titles: 0.
How did they do in the last tournament? They ended 16th among 18 teams with 15 points over 17 games, so not great.
Best player: Alfredo Talavera. Despite being 40 years old, the goalkeeper can still win games with his saves.
Strongest quality: Counterattacks. It seems the team drilled this over the pre-season and showcased it during an epic 2-1 victory over Club América in the Azteca, recently.
Weakest spot: They don't keep the ball and allow too many shots on goal (an average of 13 per game, according to the Apertura 2023 stats). In other words, they like to play with fire.
Leagues Cup group: South 1 (Austin FC, Mazatlán).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?) 6/10. It's not a top-class team, but after beating América and Toluca away from home, you shouldn't consider them an easy win.
Nickname: La Fiera (The Beast), Los Panzas Verdes (The Green Bellies)
Liga MX titles: 8 (last title Apertura 2020)
How did they do in the last tournament? There were expectations surrounding the team, but they were surprisingly left out of the title race after losing in a play-in game against Atlético de San Luis. On the other hand, they defeated LAFC to win the Concacaf Champions League.
Best player: Lukas Romero. The midfielder is the glue of the team.
Strongest quality: Nicolás Larcamón. The Argentine coach has repeatedly demonstrated how adaptable and savvy his tactics are, even when resources are scarce.
Weakest spot: They tend to drop their guard in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the game.
Leagues Cup group: West 3 (LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?) 7/10. They have multiple ways to harm opponents (set pieces, wings, long-range shots) but they are not invincible.
Nickname: Los Cañoneros (The Gunners).
Liga MX Titles: 0.
How did they do in the last tournament? Awful. They were dead last in the Clausura 2023 with a sad record of two wins, one draw and 14 losses.
Best player: Nicolás Benedetti. The Colombian is a wizard, a very talented player upfront. The catch? He is injury-prone.
Strongest quality: Being often in the bottom of the well means they have nothing to lose, right?
Weakest spot: Their mentality. When you are used to losing, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Leagues Cup group: South 1 (Austin FC, FC Juárez).
Fear-0-meter: (should I be scared?) 2/10. Los Cañoneros are currently the worst team in Liga MX.
Nickname: Rayados (The Striped), La Pandilla (The Gang).
Liga MX titles: 5 (last title in Apertura 2019).
How did they do in the last tournament? They were the best team of the whole Clausura 2023 with 40 points in 17 games, but ultimately fell short by being eliminated in the Liguilla semi-finals against their rival Tigres.
Best player: Their historic striker Rogelio Funes Mori. He scored 10 goals in 17 regular season games.
Strongest quality: $$$$$.
Weakest spot: They tend to flop in the late games of the knock-out stage (they have won only one league title in the last 13 years).
Leagues Cup group: West 2 (Seatte Sounders, Real Salt Lake).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?): 9/10. Rayados are one of the scariest teams in Liga MX.
Nickname: Los Rayos (The Lightning Bolts).
Liga MX Titles: 3 (last title in 1998).
How did they do in the last tournament? They were the second-worst team in the tournament with 14 points, only ahead of Mazatlán who finished with 7.
Best player: Facundo Batista, scored nine goals in the 2022-23 season.
Strongest quality: Not being the worst team in the league
Weakest spot: Their attacking options, they were the lowest scoring team in the tournament 16 goals in 17 matches (under a goal per game).
Leagues Cup group: South 4 (FC Dallas, Charlotte FC)
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?): 3/10. Honestly, they are not a big threat.
Nickname: Tuzos (Moles).
Liga MX titles: 8 (last title in Apertura 2022).
How did they do in the last tournament? They had a decent follow-up to their previous championship tournament, finishing 5th on the table. However, they managed to get eliminated in the Liguilla play-in by Santos Laguna, a team that finished 13th.
Best player: Erick Sánchez. With the imminent exit of the ace Luis Chávez to Russia, Pachuca's future will rest on Chiqutito's shoulders. He is quick, dynamic and can change a game in a snap.
Strongest quality: Their ability to grow and develop young talents.
Weakest spot: Sharing owners with Club León (they trade players every season).
Leagues Cup group: As Liga MX champion, they will start the tournament in the KO stage.
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?): 6/10. The team has lost its way lately, and Luis Chávez's exit will likely dampen their expectations in the tournament.
Nickname: La Franja (The Stripe), Los Camoteros (The Sweet Potatoes).
Liga MX titles: 1 (last title in 1990).
How did they do in the last tournament? After practically being stripped of their best players and managers, Puebla still managed to qualify through the play-in, but lost to Tigres (eventual Champion).
Best player: Martín Barragán, he had a solid Apertura 2022 with 8 goals, but had a less impactful Clausura 2023 with only 4 goals.
Strongest quality: Playing as a unit.
Weakest spot: Selling players to bigger clubs.
Leagues Cup group: Central 2 (Minnesota United, Chicago Fire).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?) 4/10. Puebla have a tough core, but they don't have enough depth in their squad.
Nickname: Universitarios (The College students), Los del Pedregal (The Ones from the Quarry), Auriazules (The Gold and Blue).
Liga MX titles: 7 (last in the Clausura 2011).
How did they do in the last tournament? Pumas is one of the historic Big Four in Liga MX and they couldn't make the playoffs. They finished 14th among 18 teams and fans, understandably, were not thrilled.
Best player: The inclement sun at noon during their games at home. But since the games are not being played in Mexico, let's say Eduardo Salvio. He is the guy who does the creative stuff.
Strongest quality: Antonio Mohamed. The Argentine manager was recently brought in to fix the mess in the club and has experience winning the league title with América and Monterrey. He really knows one or two things when putting a squad together.
Weakest spot: Confidence. The club is still trying to shake off the ghost from the last tournament.
Leagues Cup group: East 2 (CF Montreal, DC United).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?) 6/10. This is not the strongest Pumas squad ever, but Mohamed sure knows a couple tricks to spook their opponents.
Nickname: Gallos Blancos (The White Roosters).
Liga MX titles: 0.
How did they do in the last tournament? Not bad for what they are. Querétaro ended in 10th place and deserved to fight for a ticket in the playoffs. However, Liga MX rules forbid the participation in playoffs to the teams that finish in the last three spots of their coefficient table, a measure that includes the clubs' performances within the last three seasons. And Querétaro was one of those three teams.
Best player: Pablo Barrera. The winger is the best Mexican assister in Liga MX since 2020.
[Lista extendida y corregida] pic.twitter.com/4jJvM9yWmE— Statiskicks (@statiskicks) April 6, 2023
Strongest quality: They grind a lot. Querétaro has one of the weakest squads in Liga MX, but coach Mauro Gerk knows how to get points in the bag.
Weakest spot: The lack of someone special. Historic player Camilo Sanvezzo returned to the team in the summer, but he hasn't been able to make an impact. Additionally, they lost goalkeeper Gil Acalá to Pumas, and filling his gloves is going to be hard.
Leagues Cup group: East 1 (Philadelphia Union, Tijuana).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?): 4/10. Again, they grind but don't have enough spice to be worried. It's not like when they had Ronaldinho on the team, circa 2015
Nickname: La Comarca Lagunera (The Lagoon Region), Los Laguneros (The Lagooners), Los Guerreros (The Warriors).
Liga MX titles: 6 (last title in Clausura 2018)
How did they do in the last tournament? They qualified for the play-in (format where 12 teams qualify) as 13th seed only because Querétaro couldn’t participate due to having been the lowest seed of the 2022-23 season. In quarter-finals, Monterrey put them to sleep.
Best player: Juan Brunetta. He’s a strong and skillful attacking midfielder that takes care of every single set-piece. He won’t be with them for long.
Strongest quality: Quite frankly, taking advantage of opportunities.
Weakest spot: Their defense, they conceded 37 goals in 17 matches.
Leagues Cup group: South 2 (Orlando City, Houston Dynamo).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?) 5/10. Sure they have power in the front attack, but as many goal they score, they also concede. Their defense is way too flaky.
Tigres de la UANL
Nickname: Felinos (Felines), Incomparables (The Uncomparables), La U (The University).
Liga MX titles: 8 (current Champions of Clausura 2023).
How did they do in the last tournament? They were a very inconsistent, talented team that turned efficient in the knockout stage of the tournament. They barely beat Puebla in the play-in, but managed to win it all against Chivas in their stadium after being down 2-0 in the second half.
Best player: Sebastián Córdova. He scored in every knockout game (Puebla, Toluca, Monterrey and Chivas) and was, in part, the reason why Tigres continued to go through the playoffs.
Strongest quality: Talent, experience and $$$.
Weakest spot: Having a lot of old players that take days off throughout the regular season.
Leagues Cup group: West 1 (Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?): 8/10. They are the Liga MX champions.
Nickname: Los Diablos Rojos (The Red Devils), Los Escarlatas (The Scarlets), Los Choriceros (The Chorizo Makers)
Liga MX titles: 10 (last in the Bicentenario 2010).
How did they do in the last tournament? They finished 4th in the regular season and people thought they would make a run for the title. However, those hopes died early during the playoffs after losing against Tigres in the quarterfinals.
Best player: Tiago Volpi. The Brazilian goalkeeper is pretty good at countering opponent's attacks, but he also loves to score from the penalty spot. In fact, he has bagged five goals across the 2023 calendar year.
Strongest quality: Their pace. Toluca players are nimble, mercurial and able to make quick, dangerous transitions.
Weakest spot: Tactic reading. Ignacio Ambriz is a great manager. I mean, he is even being considered to take the reins of the Mexican national team. However, when he doesn't read a game well, the squad struggles to create a reaction to change the course of events.
Leagues Cup group: Central 4 (Nashville SC, Colorado Rapids).
Fear-0-meter (should I be scared?) 7/10. In any good day, Toluca could embody their Red Devil moniker and make your life a literal hell. But sometimes, they burn themselves.
Nickname: Xolos (Xoloitzcuintles).
Liga MX Titles: 1 (first and last title in Apertura 2012).
How did they do in the last tournament? They finished 15th and became the only club to not qualify to the playoffs since the new Liga MX format began in 2020. Basically, they were the only club to not finish at least 12th since COVID-19. They recruited Miguel “Piojo” Herrera mid-tournament in hopes of qualifying to the Liguilla, but not even he could turn things around in such short notice.
Best player: Carlos González. Xolos struggled to score during the Clausura 2023 and for the Apertura 2023 they got the Paraguayan striker for Toluca. The bet has paid off nicely considering González has scored three goals in their last three games.
Strongest quality: Their new signings (Carlos Gonzalez, Diego Barbosa and Jesús Corona), plus having a complete pre-season of preparations under Herrera.
Weakest spot: Having a squad filled with C-tier foreigners.
Leagues Cup group: East 1 (Philadelphia Union, Querétaro).
Fear-0-meter: (should I be scared?) 5/10. Herrera is starting to cook something with Xolos, but the team is still raw and not totally oiled up.