MLS still hasn’t released its full 2021 season schedule, but the Sounders gained a little clarity Tuesday regarding what’s ahead for the club this year. The league and Liga MX announced a return to the Leagues Cup competition this summer.
The tournament, which features the top teams from Mexico’s top-flight league and MLS, was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the return of Leagues Cup, the Sounders will join Sporting Kansas City, Orlando City SC and New York City FC in a single-elimination format. The clubs qualified due to finishing in the top two spots in 2020 Western and Eastern Conference regular-season standings. The defending champion Columbus Crew SC and Eastern Conference’s Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC were not included due to their competing in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
Each MLS team will host its Liga MX opponent in the quarterfinal matchups, but the entire tournament will be played in the U.S. Competition is slated to begin Aug. 9, with the semifinals scheduled the week of Sept. 13 and the Leagues Cup final the week of Sept. 20.
Specifics, including the Liga MX qualifiers, will be announced at a later date. The Sounders are 4-8-2 against Liga MX clubs.
“It’s great to compete at an international level,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said in audio provided by MLS. “As an organization, we strive for trophies. To have another chance at winning a trophy is something we embrace.”
The Sounders will open their MLS season April 16 with a match against Minnesota United FC at Lumen Field. Fans are permitted to attend, season-ticket holders receiving first options.
Leerdam to Miami
Chris Henderson, the former Sounders vice president of soccer and sporting director, signed another Seattle player Tuesday in his new role as Inter Miami CF’s chief soccer officer and sporting director.
The Sounders acquired a total of $75,000 in General Allocation Money for the right of first refusal of fullback Kelvin Leerdam. The free agent’s contract was declined by the Sounders last winter. Miami signed Leerdam to a deal through 2023.
Henderson also signed former Rave Green midfielder Joevin Jones this month. Jones helped the Sounders win two MLS Cup titles and four Western Conference championships while Leerdam was along for one league and three conference titles.
“We’d like to thank Kelvin for four memorable seasons in Seattle,” said Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders general manager and president of soccer, in a release. “His quality of play, in addition to his tactical acumen and professionalism off the field were key to our success over the last few years. We wish him the best of luck in the next chapter of his career down in Miami.”
The Sounders also announced Tuesday a new partnership with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians’ Emerald Queen Casino (EQC) to make EQC the club’s Official Casino and Entertainment Partner through 2027.
As part of the deal, the EQC logo will be placed on the right sleeve of the club’s primary and secondary jerseys. And the partnership includes a community-based component where the Rave Green and Puyallup Tribe will collaborate through the lens of Sounders’ Social Justice Framework on projects ranging from sustainability to defending the right to play.
“We are perhaps most excited about working side by side on efforts in the community, leveraging the power of both the Rave Green and the Puyallup Tribe to empower and provide for our youth, removing barriers to play and strengthening soccer and lifelong wellness habits in the Pacific Northwest,” said Peter Tomozawa, the Sounders president of business operations, in a release.