CHICAGO — While the biggest tournament in the world of women’s soccer is taking place in Australia and New Zealand, another is being played out in North America.

That one involves Chicago Fire FC and is in its third year of being staged, only this year in a much bigger way.

The 2023 Leagues Cup is taking place in United States and Canada, featuring teams from Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX. For the first time this year, every team from both leagues will participate in the tournament that started on July 21 and will run through August 19.

To accommodate the added teams, MLS will take a break from their season until after the final is played.

“I think it’s good to play in this tournament, and I think the pause from MLS is good, just to focus solely on this tournament and put everything we can do to get as far
as possible in the tournament,” said Fire midfielder and defender Mauricio Pineda of the Leagues Cup. “I think that’s the good thing about being off from MLS for so long. I don’t think we would want to have that much of a break, but I think it’s also good to be able to focus on these games specifically and not worry about having league games intertwined with the tournament.

“So, it’s good. It’s an exciting tournament. We’re looking forward to it and approaching it in the
right way, prepare for it and get the best results we can.”

The Fire are in the Central 2 group of the tournament with Minnesota United FC and Liga MX side Puebla. They’ll match up with the MLS club on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Allianz Field in St. Paul then face Puebla on Monday at SeatGeek Stadium at 7:30 p.m, with the top two teams making the knockout round.

Should the Fire advance, they would start Round of 32 play between August 2-4 with play going all the way through the final on August 19.

The two finalists along with the winner of the third-place match will advance to the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2024, with the winner of the Leagues Cup immediately advancing to the Round of 16 in that tournament.

Playing in this tournament comes as the Fire has found form in the summer in MLS, winning five of their last six matches to push themselves above the Eastern Conference playoff line. It also comes after the club had a week-and-a-half off for the All-Star Break following a 1-0 win over Toronto FC on July 15.

“We’ve had an opportunity to give guys a couple days off and then back in training. It’s also reinforcing every day the importance of every game, especially in this tournament format how important it is to go in and for us to compete and do well as a club and as a team,” said manager Frank Klopas. “I think we have a long way to go. We’re trying to improve within every match, and I think this is another great opportunity before our next league game to continue to play really top-level games where it’s going to help the players get sharper and improve but also us as a team.”