Concacaf Champions League

A quick lesson on the CONCACAF Champions League

For those who have opened this article with either incomplete or non-existent knowledge of the competition; the CONCACAF Champions League is the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League in Europe. 24 teams in total compete, with 4 clubs coming from each of Mexico, and the US, 3 clubs coming from the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship, 2 clubs coming from each of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama, and 1 club coming from each of Belize, Canada, and Nicaragua.

Now, since it’s reformatting from the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2008, no MLS team has won the competition. Both Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact have made it to the final in 2011 and 2015 respectively, before losing out to Mexican clubs Monterrey and América. Toronto FC made it to the semifinal in 2012, losing out to Mexican club Santos Laguna. Both Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC made it to the semifinal in 2013 but lost out to Mexican Clubs Monterrey and Santos Laguna. The common factor behind each of the MLS club defeats is that the victors all hailed from Mexico. In fact, a club from Mexico has won the competition all 8 years since it’s reformatting, and Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact have been the only runners-up not from Mexico.

That marks a total monopoly by Mexican clubs in the competition’s modern history. If the MLS is to grow in reputation, then it’s sides need to be able to compete with the top clubs of other nations in an international tournament format. This year, in the 2016/17 tournament, there seems to be a very good chance of just that happening. In the semifinal, Vancouver Whitecaps FC have been drawn against Mexican Torneo Apertura champions Tigres UANL, and FC Dallas have been drawn against Mexican Torneo Clausura champions Pachuca. The Torneo Apertura and Torneo Apertura are the front and back halves of the Mexican regular season, each of which ends in a knockout tournament participated in by the top 8 during the respective halves of the season.

The first leg of the semi-final has been played already, with Tigres UANL winning 2-0 over Vancouver Whitecaps FC in San Nicolás, Nuevo León, and FC Dallas winning 2-1 over Pachuca in Frisco, Texas. Vancouver Whitecaps FC face the arguably more difficult challenge as they are set to play their home leg in Vancouver, British Columbia. They failed to score an away goal in the first leg, and therefore cannot afford to allow Tigres UANL to score in the second leg, a task which seems nearly impossible given the current aggregate score. Currently, Vancouver needs to win 3-0 to advance to the final outright, and 2-0 to proceed to extra-time and then a penalty shootout to decide the winner. Should Tigres score, Vancouver would need to win outright on aggregate, as an even aggregate score would see Tigres advance on away goals.

FC Dallas face a slightly less difficult second leg against Pachuca in Pachuca, Hidalgo. Given that they won 2-1 in the first leg, FC Dallas has the edge. However, the fact that Pachuca scored an away goal in the first leg makes it imperative that FC Dallas scores in the second leg to assure that they advance to the final. This shouldn’t prove to be an insurmountable task, given the display of FC Dallas in the first game, and their ability to procure goals from minuscule chances.

In the end, it seems likely that we will see an FC Dallas vs. Tigres UANL final. I believe that given the quality of the FC Dallas side that won the Supporters Shield and the US Open Cup in 2016, there is a real chance that FC Dallas wins. The final will be a two-legged affair, with the higher seeded of the two teams (Tigres UANL in this case) playing the second leg at home.

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