Joining 610 Sports Radio host Josh Klingler on Monday morning, Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes made one point particularly clear.
His team has every intention of going after Leagues Cup this summer.
Sporting Kansas City was announced as one of eight participants in Leagues Cup, which will consist of four MLS clubs and four LIGA MX clubs squaring off in a single-elimination tournament from August to September. Sporting is assured of hosting a LIGA MX opponent in the quarterfinals on the week of Aug. 9, with the semifinals and finals to follow in mid-September.
Underscoring the importance of the competition, Vermes noted that unlike the Concacaf Champions League, which includes clubs from several Concacaf nations, Leagues Cup is unique in that it only features teams from the top two leagues in North America.
“It’s a way for us to measure ourselves and compete against clubs that do things differently than we do—everything from the business structure to how we acquire players and put our pro player pathway together,” Vermes said. “That competition is really healthy as we move forward and things continue to change. You always try to evolve, and we have a vision as a league to try to do that. Competitively, it’s going to be huge to do that moving forward.”
Vermes also believes that Sporting and Major League Soccer can use the Leagues Cup as a means of shrinking the gap between the top-flight leagues in the U.S. and Mexico.
“We have to get over the hump of being the second fiddle in Concacaf,” he said. “There have times when we’ve been above Mexico, but predominantly they are (on top). There’s this side of the soccer fanbase that says, ‘Why do you care about playing Mexican teams?’ Well, we’d like to be the best league in our region and eventually the best league in the world. How do you get there? You have to start competing against a league that has better teams than we do. MLS teams haven’t won Champions League and things like that. I think it helps us from a perception perspective and it helps us continue to grow as clubs and a league. It’s also going to benefit both leagues in the long term.”
In addition to discussing Leagues Cup, Vermes addressed the new qualifying mechanism for the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup—the top eight American clubs in the MLS standings after Week 3 will compete in the tournament—and provided an update on players who have caught his eye during preseason training in Arizona.
Sporting will conclude their four-game slate of preseason matches in Arizona on Saturday, facing the LA Galaxy at 2 p.m. CT at Kino North Complex in Tucson. Supporters can follow @SKCMatchday on Twitter for live updates.