April 21st, 2024

Vancouver Whitecaps renew rivalry with Los Angeles FC, this time in Leagues Cup play

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on March 14, 2024.

Los Angeles FC's Nathan Ordaz, left, grabs the jersey of Vancouver Whitecaps' Andres Cubas as they vie for the ball during the second half in game 2 of a first-round MLS playoff soccer match, in Vancouver, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. The Whitecaps will renew acquaintances with Los Angeles FC, which ended their playoff run last season, in the Leagues Cup this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Vancouver Whitecaps will renew acquaintances with Los Angeles FC, which ended their MLS playoff and CONCACAF Champions League campaigns last year, on July 30 at BMO Stadium in the Leagues Cup this season.

The Whitecaps and LAFC have been drawn in the West Group 7 along with Mexico’s Club Tijuana.

In the East, Toronto FC was placed in Group 6 with the New York Red Bulls and Mexico’s Club Pachuca while CF Montreal finds itself in Group 2 with Orlando City SC and Mexico’s Atletico de San Luis.

The second edition of the Leagues Cup, which runs from July 26 to Aug. 25, features all 18 clubs from Mexico’s Liga MX, and all 29 from Major League Soccer. The opening group stage runs through Aug. 6, with Inter Miami CF opening defence of its title on July 27 against visiting Puebla.

The top two teams in each of the 15 opening-round groups advance to the knockout stage where they will join Liga MX champion Club America and MLS Cup winner Columbus in the round of 32.

The tournament will determine three qualifiers for the 2025 CONCACAF Champions Cup, with the winner of CONCACAF’s elite men’s club competition representing the region at the FIFA Club World Cup.

After playing in L.A., the Whitecaps will host Tijuana on Aug. 3. Tijuana currently is 16th in the Mexican standings at 0-4-7.

Montreal will open July 26 at Orlando before hosting Atletico de San Luis at Stade Saputo on July 30. The San Luis Potosí-based Mexican side, whose majority shareholder is Spain’s Atletico de Madrid, is 14th in the Mexican standings at 3-7-1.

Montreal failed to reach the knockout round last year, defeating Pumas UNAM 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the game finished knotted at 2-2 but falling 1-0 to D.C. United.

Orlando was beaten by Inter Miami in last year’s round of 32 while Atletico de San Luis failed to get out of the group stage.

Toronto will open July 27 at Red Bull Arena before hosting Pachuca on Aug. 4 at BMO Field. Pachuca stands fourth in Liga MX at 7-3-1.

Toronto failed to advance out of the group stage last year, losing 1-0 to Mexico’s Atlas FC and 5-0 at New York City FC, one of many low points in 2023. While TFC has never faced Pachuca before, it has history with the Red Bulls – holding a 9-21-10 all-time regular-season record against the New Jersey-based side.

The Red Bulls made it to the round of 16 last year before falling to the Philadelphia Union in a penalty shootout. Pachuca lost to the Houston Dynamo on penalties in the round of 32.

The Whitecaps fell to Mexico’s Tigres UANL in last year’s round of 16, beaten 5-3 on penalty kicks after the game finished 1-1 through 90 minutes. In group play, Vancouver defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 and lost a marathon 16-15 penalty shootout to Mexico’s Leon after the game finished tied at 2-2.

LAFC lost 3-2 to Monterrey in last year’s quarterfinals while Tijuana failed to make the knockout stage.

LAFC defeated Vancouver in a best-of-three first-round playoff series last year, winning 5-2 at home and 1-0 before a Whitecaps-record MLS crowd of 30,204 at B.C. Place Stadium. Los Angeles also downed the Whitecaps 6-0 on aggregate last April in the two-legged quarterfinal of the CONCACAF Champions League, now known as the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

The 2023 tournament served as a showcase for Lionel Messi, who scored 10 goals en route to winning his 44th trophy for club and country as Miami defeated Nashville 10-9 in a penalty shootout last August after the game finished tied at 1-1.

This year, the knockout round of 32 is scheduled for Aug. 7-9, followed by the round of 16″¯ Aug. 12-13 and quarterfinals”¯ Aug. 16-17. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 20-“¯21 with the final and third-place game set for Aug. 25.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2024

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