Leagues Cup was designed to entertain North American soccer fans – and once Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami, the rest of the world, too. Saturday’s final between Inter Miami and Nashville SC brought that in spades.
Miami inched past the Coyotes to lift their first piece of silverware as a club in front of 30,109 fans at Geodis Park, an environment 18-year MLS veteran Dax McCarty called “the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in”. Messi’s superhuman performance over the course of the tournament was capped off by an other-worldly goal, stunning both the fans and Nashville’s defense.
After a set piece equalizer from Nashville, Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender was the penalty shootout hero, blasting his shot into the roof of the net before making a match-winning save to deny Nashville shot-stopper Elliot Panicco.
The tournament is the latest in a series of crossover events between the top two leagues in North America. Both Liga MX and MLS paused their domestic campaigns for a full month to take part in the first edition of the annual World Cup-style tournament. Occasional meetings between clubs in Concacaf competitions have long been used as a barometer to compare the two leagues, but Leagues Cup was designed to give a more holistic comparison, with a hefty dose of marketing mixed in.
Zooming out to look at the tournament as a whole, the top three finishers in the inter-league competition were MLS clubs. 11 clubs in the Round of 16 hailed from MLS. Seems like a resounding success for the league, right?
Let’s take a deeper look.