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The 2023 Leagues Cup has reached its business end now, with just eight teams remaining out of a total of 47. Many teams that were named favorites to win the competition have made it so far, while there are a few who have been eliminated by underdogs. The next phase will host four action-packed quarterfinals this Friday.
Amongst the top outright favorites are the resurgent Inter Miami side, who have not lost a single game in the competition. The arrival of Lionel Messi has bolstered the spirits of the David Beckham-owned club. The defending Major League Soccer (MLS) champions and top seed Los Angeles FC are also amongst the favorites to win the tournament.
Odds taken from bet365
The third edition of the Leagues Cup has provided spectators with some unexpected results throughout the tournament. This includes the group-stage exit of teams like Seattle Sounders FC, St. Louis City SC, LA Galaxy, and Chivas Guadalajara. The upsets continued as the knockout phase commenced.
Los Angeles FC and CF Pachuca skipped the group stage because they were the top seeds of their respective domestic leagues. However, the Mexican side was unable to capitalize on the opportunity and lost in the first knockout round against Dynamo Houston. FC Cincinnati, who are leading the MLS Supporters Shield table were also eliminated in the first round.
In the previous round, the top Mexican clubs struggled and many who were among the top favorites were shown the exit door by their opponents. The 2022-23 Clausura champions Tigres UANL, 14-time Liga MX champions Club America, and ten-time Liga MX champions Toluca were all eliminated in the Round of 16.
As things stand, there are only two Liga MX sides surviving in the Leagues Cup and the possibility of both reaching the semifinals is quite less. Queretaro FC have defied the odds so far and reached this stage. However, the Mexican club are still underdogs and are likely to face defeat in the next match against MLS giants Philadelphia Union.
The other underdogs include Charlotte FC and Minnesota United. The former is also expected to bow out of the tournament in the next match because Charlotte FC are up against Inter Miami, who have been prolific ever since the arrival of three ex-Barcelona players – Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba.
Minnesota United dumped Toluca out of the competition in the previous round but they are up against a side that has eliminated FC Cincinnati and Club America in the last two rounds. Nashville SC are eager to lift a trophy this season and are expected to end Minnesota United’s fairytale run in the 2023 Leagues Cup.
The most intense quarter-final encounter is expected to take place between Los Angeles FC and CF Monterrey. The latter is the only remaining favorite from Liga MX. However, this could be the end of the road for Mexican clubs in the tournament. Queretaro FC are underdogs, while CF Monterrey may not be able to keep the prolific MLS champions at bay.
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The possibility of an all-American semi-final phase in the 2023 Leagues Cup is quite high. The fairytale voyages of the underdogs will certainly come to an end this Friday with teams like Inter Miami, Philadelphia Union, and Nashville SC advancing to the pre-penultimate stage of the tournament.
Picking the winner of the quarter-final clash between Los Angeles FC and CF Monterrey will be tough considering the magnitude of both sides. Neither club will want to throw away the chance of nabbing a trophy. The high-octane encounter is expected to deliver a lot of entertainment but will be a tricky one to bet on.
The Mexican club has bagged narrow wins in the knockout stage, while the MLS champions have thrashed their opponents in the last two rounds. While CF Monterrey have scored just two goals in their last two games, Los Angeles FC have scored 11. The immense firepower of the American club could be too hot to handle for the five-time Liga MX champions.
If Los Angeles FC emerge victorious, their semi-final encounter would be comparatively easier than their quarter-final match. The defending MLS champions will face the winner of the quarter-final encounter between Nashville SC and Minnesota United. Odds are that they will face Nashville SC, who will be too strong for Minnesota United.
On the other side of the chart, Philadelphia Union will face Queretaro FC for the second time in this tournament. The two clubs have already met in the group stage and that result did not go well for the Mexican club as they were at the wrong end of a 5-1 scoreline. Their objective will be to avenge their only loss of the campaign but the chances of that are extremely low.
In the semi-final, Philadelphia Union will take on the winner of the encounter between Inter Miami and Charlotte FC. Just like Minnesota United and Queretaro FC, Charlotte FC have also surprised spectators by making it so far in the competition. However, considering the form Inter Miami are in, the dream voyage of Charlotte FC is likely to end this Friday.
If both encounters dodge massive upsets, the semi-final clash between Philadelphia Union and Inter Miami will be scintillating. Daniel Gazdag will finally get his chance to go toe-to-toe with Messi. Positionally, the attacking midfielder could be marked by Busquets in a must-watch battle in midfield.
There will be a lot at stake for both these teams. The Union are looking for their first-ever trophy. They reached the final of the US Open Cup thrice but lost in all three finals between 2014 and 2018. Last year, they were just a step away from clinching their first MLS title but lost against Los Angeles FC in the final.
Meanwhile, Inter Miami are rooted to the bottom of the table in the MLS. A positive outcome in this competition could set the tone for the second half of the MLS season as the team fights to get themselves into a playoff qualification spot. However, the complacency against FC Dallas in the last match showed how vulnerable Inter Miami can be.
The club may have been boosted by the new arrivals but is yet to face a top side from the domestic league. Philadelphia Union cannot afford to be complacent against Inter Miami. If they can retain their shape and separate the former PSG striker from the pack, they stand a chance to reach the final and be a step closer to a trophy.
In the other semi-final, if Los Angeles FC clashes with Nashville SC, the former has the upper hand. Nashville SC’s leading scorer Hany Mukhtar has been struggling lately and if the striker fails to regain his lost form, it could spell trouble for a club that has performed so well till now. However, if Nashville SC falter, spectators will witness a repeat of last season’s MLS playoff final.
In the final, if Los Angeles FC and Philadelphia Union go head-to-head, the advantage will be with the defending MLS champions. The Union’s wait for a major trophy will go on as Los Angeles FC are in superb form. They have been prolific in the final third and have converted almost all the chances that have been created.
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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