Place your bets: Tigres, Cruz Azul battle in Las Vegas

The Tigres earned a 2-2 tie against America in the Leagues Cup semifinal, before advancing to the final on penalty kicks. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
The Tigres earned a 2-2 tie against America in the Leagues Cup semifinal, before advancing to the final on penalty kicks. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The first-ever Leagues Cup trophy will be hoisted by a Liga MX club.

The Tigres and Cruz Azul are in Las Vegas to do battle in the inaugural Leagues Cup final. The game pits the winningest Liga MX team of the decade – the Tigres –  against a Cruz Azul team desperate to lift some hardware.

The Tigres will be trying to hoist the trophy in an inaugural international tournament for the second year in a row. Last year, the Tigres defeated FC Toronto in the inaugural Campeones Cup.

The first edition of the Leagues Cup began as a single elimination tournament featuring eight teams, four each from MLS and Liga MX. The Tigres, America, Cruz Azul and Tijuana represented Liga MX, while the participating MLS clubs were the Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire.

Leagues Cup Tigres Cruz Azul
Jose Madueña (#27) is congratulated by his Cruz Azul mates after scoring the opener against the La Galaxy in their Leagues Cup semifinal. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The Tigres advanced to the final by edging America in a penalty kick shoot-out while Cruz Azul eliminated the L.A. Galaxy in their semifinal match.

The Leagues Cup evolved as a complementary tournament to the Campeones Cup which was created in 2018 as a single-game championship between the MLS Cup winner and the Campeon de Campeones winner in Liga MX. The latter is a playoff between the Liga MX Apertura and Clausura winners. Atlanta United defeated America 3-2- on Aug. 14 to win this year’s Campeones Cup.

Here’s a quick look at the state of the two teams heading into the final at Sam Boyd Stadium. In this case of Wednesday’s final, what happens in Vegas won’t be staying in Vegas, because the trophy will be coming to Mexico.

Can forwards lead Tigres to more silverware?

The Nuevo Leon club defeated Real Salt Lake 1-0 in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals, then battled America to a 2-2 draw before eventually beating them in penalty kicks.

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The Tuca Ferretti side has not looked great in its recent league games, struggling in the final third of the field. The club is currently riding a 7-game unbeaten streak, but the last five of those games have been ties and all five ended 1-1.

Considering this squad features André-Pierre Gignac, Edu Vargas and Enner Valencia up front, the fact that the Tigres have scored only 13 goals in 9 games is a clear indication of their offensive struggles. Gignac and his mates will likely have to find the net if the Tigres are to claim another trophy.

Projected Lineup


Nahuel Guzmán

Chaka Rodríguez – Hugo  Ayala – Diego Reyes – Jesús Dueñas

Guido Pizarro – Rafael Carioca

Jürgen Damm – Edu Vargas – Javier Aquino

André-Pierre Gignac

Do Cementeros have championship pedigree?

Cruz Azul reached Las Vegas by defeating the Chicago Fire 2-0 in the quarterfinals before eliminating the LA Galaxy 2-1 in the semifinal. But the win over the Galaxy came on Aug. 20. Since then, the Cementeros have seen their framework collapse.

Their chaotic and controversial front office soap opera has turned Cruz Azul into the new laughing stock of the league. lt started with the mutual agreement for Pedro Caixinha to step down as head coach on Sept. 2. As sporting director Ricardo Peláez prepared to choose the new manager, he discovered he was not included in the decision-making process. Cruz Azul committee directors selected Robert Dante Siboldi and Peláez promptly resigned.

Cruz Azul has struggled throughout the Apertura 2019, managing only 11 points in 9 games. The club has been woefully inefficient on offense (10 goals in 9 matches) despite one of the highest payrolls in Liga MX.

The Cementeros come into the Leagues Cup final off a listless 0-0 draw against the worst team in the world, Veracruz. (The Tiburones are on a world record 35-game winless streak stretching back to August 2018).

Projected Lineup


Jesús Corona

Julio César Domínguez – Pablo Aguilar – Igor Lichnovsky –Adrián Aldrete

Elías Hernández – Orbelin Pineda – Yoshimar Yotun – Roberto Alvarado

Jonathan Rodríguez – Brayan Angulo

Both teams have motivation to win this Cup if only as an inspirational springboard to the second half of the Apertura 2019. But both the Tigres and Cruz Azul will have to find the inspiration that has been absent from their performances the past six weeks or so.

As far as the inaugural Leagues Cup goes, the potential of establishing a highly competitive rivalry tournament between the Liga MX and MLS is within grasp. The Leagues Cup will expand to 16 teams next year, though I would personally love for this to become a 24-team tournament with an extended schedule of games.