Philadelphia Union Season Preview Part 3: 2024 Cup Competitions

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Union, MLS
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

The anticipation is building. Players are (mostly) signed. Rosters are (mostly) starting to reach their opening-day constructions. Fans are (mostly) planning their first tailgates. But while the 2024 MLS season begins for Philadelphia Union in just ten days, their first competitive match comes even sooner, thanks to the team once again participating in multiple cup competitions (I’m being non-specific about the number for a reason- we’ll get into that).

Union, MLS
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union’s International competitions

Concacaf Champions Cup (CCC)

The season begins with Concacaf’s continental competition formerly known as the Champions League, now rebranded as the Champions Cup. Following the example of Warner Brothers Discovery turning HBO Max into Max, Concacaf has decided to toss away powerful brand recognition in favor of something new for no real discernible reason whatsoever. 

Courtesy of a third-place finish in last year’s Leagues Cup (again, we’ll get to that later), The Union has once again qualified for the CCC. Unlike its European counterpart, the CCC begins in the knockout rounds, leaving no room for slow starts.

First up? Familiar foes Deportivo Saprissa, the first team Philly ever faced in the CCL, back in 2021. While a 5-0 aggregate Union win might suggest a lack of competitiveness, let’s not forget the horrific 94th minute (in the first leg, when it was still 1-0) tackle from Saprissa’s Ricardo Blanco on Kai Wagner that led to a brawl between the teams. It’s not hard to imagine some lingering resentment about the incident, particularly as Blanco only received a yellow card for it. And yes, Blanco is still on Saprissa’s roster.

It all kicks off away in Costa Rica on Tuesday, February 20th at 10pm.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Leagues Cup

For the second year, MLS and the Mexican first division, Liga MX, will take a month-long midseason break for a tournament featuring all the teams from both leagues, because money it’s a great competition and opportunity. Once again, MLS plays host to the entirety of the competition, with every match taking place in the United States or Canada.

One thing that has changed is the format of the competition. Without getting too into the weeds of the underlying tournament structure, this year all the teams are split between 3 tiers. Then, they are also divided between two regions, East and West, and sorted into 3-team groups from there (7 in the East, 8 in the West). The groups are then made up of a team from each tier.

As a tier 1 team, Philadelphia Union has to be considered favorites in a group that features fellow MLS side Charlotte FC (tier 2) and traditional Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul (tier 3 somehow).

Leagues Cup begins July 26th.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

U.S. Open Cup…?

The U.S. Open Cup is the oldest cup soccer competition in the country, dating back to 1913. This year has seen the folks running MLS make their long-held disdain for the historic competition official by trying to forcibly withdraw MLS teams, and require them to send their MLS Next Pro teams (aka reserve teams, or second teams) in their stead. In response, the U.S. Soccer Federation stepped in and announced that MLS would not be allowed to enact their conniving plan.

As of now, MLS continues to say they hope to “find a viable solution for the 2024 tournament.” What constitutes viable for a league increasingly prioritizing money-making opportunities over all else? That remains to be seen. For now, all we can do is hope Philadelphia Union has a chance to compete for a trophy in a competition they’ve lost 3 finals in.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union


Speaking of prioritizing, the question of whether to focus on the league or on one or more of the various available cup competitions is one that plagues every team across the world. Last year, Union coach Jim Curtin said the team would look to win every available competition, and the team ended up with several deep runs, exhausted starters, and zero trophies. The one positive was that third-place finish in the Leagues Cup earning this year’s Concacaf Champions Cup spot. 

With much the same roster as last season, will Philly look to win everything with a fairly settled lineup once again, or will squad rotation finally play a bigger role? We don’t have a long wait to find out.

Union, Soccer
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union