Why MLS Fans Should Root Against A Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinal Sweep

The Concacaf Champions League has been Major League Soccer’s White Whale since its creation in 2008.

The quality, breadth and visibility of MLS has grown massively since then. Yet the league’s best teams have repeatedly failed in their bids to disrupt the dominance of teams from Mexico’s Liga MX in the continental championship.

Only four MLS clubs have even reached the final, most recently in 2020 when LAFC fell to Tigres in a one-game, neutral-site affair played in December because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Given all that futility, it’s disorienting to consider that Thursday’s quarterfinal games could end with MLS teams sweeping their respective series, making the last two rounds of the tournament an intra-league affair.

New York City FC enters Leg 2 at Comunicaciones on Tuesday night leading 3-1. The Seattle Sounders and New England Revolution are taking 3-0 leads to Mexico in Leg 2, and CF Montreal faces a modest 1-0 deficit against Cruz Azul heading home.

And yet, MLS evangelists hoping for a sweep probably shouldn’t. Because claiming continental bragging rights for the first time since 2000 would be a Pyrrhic victory without a Mexican foil providing the opposition in the final rounds.

What drives the appeal of the CCL, to the extent it exists, is the same USA (and now Canada) vs. Mexico rivalry that drives the international game in Concacaf.

It’s the reason Liga MX and MLS have committed to creating the Leagues Cup as another competition that puts the leagues in direct competition every year. That competition is set to dramatically expand in 2023, with every club from both leagues competing.

As such, the lure of MLS claiming continental bragging rights in the CCL is doing so directly against Liga MX, and proving its worth not just among its top clubs but as a league as a whole.

And if Club Leon, Cruz Azul and Pumas UNAM all crash out this week, it will be easier to call the whole tournament a fluke. At the very least, whoever wins the title from MLS won’t even come close to claiming the best performance against Mexican clubs in the competition’s history.

The nightmare scenario is if New York City FC follows their 2021 MLS Cup triumph with a 2022 CCL crown without even facing a Liga MX foe.

So far the Cityzens have cruised past Santos de Guapiles of Costa Rica and are in good shape heading to their quarterfinal Leg 2 in Guatemala. But say they make the semis, then slay Seattle and then eventually New England or Montreal to win the whole thing. What exactly would that prove? That they’re capable of beating any team in MLS? They just did that last fall.

Seattle and New England would have at least one victory over Liga MX foes, and Montreal would have two. But could you really compare their runs to what Toronto FC achieved in 2018 or LAFC in 2020?

In 2018, Toronto slayed UANL Tigres and Club America before a heartbreaking loss in the final to Chivas of Guadalajara on penalties. Two years ago, LAFC beat three (!!!) Liga MX foes before losing to Tigres in the final after taking an early lead.

The good news — if you’d like to call it that — is history suggests these series are far from over.

Since the implementation of the current format in 2018, Liga MX clubs have four wins and two draw from 12 away trips at the quarterfinal stage. Any win or draw for Cruz Azul at Montreal sends them into the quarterfinals.

At home, the same Mexican sides are a ruthless 10-1-0 (W/L/D) in the quarterfinals. Four of those victories have been 3-0 shutouts, which is what Club Leon and UNAM Pumas need to at least send their series to penalties.

Make no mistake, the easiest way for MLS to capture the CCL title would be to take advantage of their favorable position now. And it’s a very real possibility.

League wide, that would be a laudable achievement. But would it provide as much satisfaction for the winning club as slaying a Mexican giant in the final? Not even close.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ianquillen/2022/03/15/why-mls-fans-should-root-against-a-concacaf-champions-league-quarterfinal-sweep/