2023 Season

How FC Dallas Can Host Lionel Messi: What You Need to Know about the Leagues Cup Knockout Rounds

7.14 Leagues Cup Preview DL

FRISCO, Texas - The first-ever MLS summer break is here to make way for the new-look 2023 Leagues Cup. Every team from MLS and Mexico's Liga MX are competing over a month-long World Cup-style tournament to crown the ultimate champion.

FC Dallas punched its ticket to the knockout rounds with a draw against Charlotte FC followed by a 3-0 win over Club Necaxa earlier this week. Now, we'll take a look at who FCD might face in the Round of 32 and how the club could host Inter Miami and Lionel Messi in the Round of 16.

But first, here's a refresher on how the Leagues Cup is structured.


The Leagues Cup consists of a group stage followed by five rounds of knockout rounds (Round of 32 to Final). All 15 groups include three teams with the top two advancing to the Round of 32 knockouts. FC Dallas is in Group South 4 along with Charlotte FC and Club Necaxa. Note, the MLS reigning champs (LAFC) and Liga MX champs (Pachuca) earned a bye and will enter the Leagues Cup at the Round of 32.

During the Group Stage, each team will play each other once to determine who moves on to the knockouts. Importantly, there are no ties in the Leagues Cup. Matches that are tied after 90 minutes will go straight to a penalty shootout. The winner of the shootout will earn 2 points from the match, the loser will earn 1 (for drawing in regulation).

Group stage opponents were decided by seeding based off the final 2022 regular season standings for both leagues. Since FC Dallas finished seventh overall in MLS, the club was seeded seventh and matched up with Necaxa who finished 11th in the 18-team table in Liga MX. Charlotte FC finished 19th overall last year and was therefore unseeded and drawn into Group South 4.


The Leagues Cup runs from July 21 to August 19. All matches will take place in the U.S. and Canada (MLS venues will host all matches). Every match will be available on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

FC Dallas Group Stage
July 21, 8PM
Charlotte FC
2-2 (1-4 in PKs)
July 25, 8:30PM
Club Necaxa


Apart from the glory of winning the 2023 Leagues Cup trophy, there are three Concacaf Champions League (CCL) spots up for grabs. The winner earns qualification directly to the CCL Round of 16 while the second and third place finishers qualify for the CCL First Round.


Round of 32 Scenarios

FC Dallas is already qualified for the Round of the 32. The only question is, will it advance as the group winner or runner up? It all depends on the outcome of Charlotte's match against Necaxa this Saturday, July 29 at 6:30PM. Dallas will finish first in the group IF Necaxa defeats Charlotte in regulation or in penalties. If Charlotte wins, Dallas will advance as the second-place team.

Why does it matter? Well, the placement affects who you face in the knockout rounds. The winner of the group will face the runner up of Group South 3, so either Cruz Azul or Atlanta United (Inter Miami already locked up first place in that group). The runner up of FCD's group will face Mazatlán FC, who topped South 1.

So, FC Dallas' potential opponents in the Round of 32 are Cruz Azul, Atlanta United or Mazatlán FC. Regardless, the match will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 2 at Toyota Stadium.

How FC Dallas Can Play Messi

Finally, the real reason you are here: Will FC Dallas host the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi, at Toyota Stadium?

Inter Miami and Messi already advanced to the Round of 32 as the first-place team in their group. So, there's a chance Dallas can host them in the Round of 16. Here's how:

FC Dallas will face Inter Miami in the Round of 16 IF:

  • Dallas advances to the Round of 32 as the second-place team (this requires Charlotte defeating Necaxa in the final group match)
  • Dallas defeats Mazatlán in the Round of 32 at Toyota Stadium on August 2
  • Inter Miami also wins its Round of 32 match (against Houston, Orlando or Santos Laguna)

If those three things happen, FC Dallas will host Leo Messi and Inter Miami at Toyota Stadium between Aug. 6-8 in the Round of 16.

There's also a chance the teams could meet in the quarterfinals if Dallas finishes first in its group (so, Necaxa beats Charlotte on Saturday) and then Dallas and Miami both win their Round of 32 and Round of 16 matches. That one's more of a long shot though.