With the conclusion of the MLS season on Saturday, American soccer fans can now turn their attention to the CONCACAF Champions League. The competition, which is currently in the quarter-final stage, returns to action this week after a nine month layoff.
The CONCACAF Champions League certainly receives less coverage than its European cousin. However, it has nonetheless produced some extremely exciting matches in recent years. The 2020 season is the 55th time the competition has been held. The tournament underwent significant restructuring in both 2008 and 2018 to reach its current format.
Of the eight remaining teams, four are representing Major League Soccer. In the lengthy history of the competition, an American team has been crowned champion just twice. D.C. United were victorious in 1998, and the LA Galaxy took home the title in 2000. However, no American team has won since the competition rebranded to a Champions League format in 2008.
Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the seven remaining matches will be played at Exploria Stadium in Orlando. The final will be held on December 22nd.
Matches to Watch
The Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals resume tonight 🍿 pic.twitter.com/eLn4CFA3N9
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 15, 2020
Olimpia vs Montreal Impact: Way back in March, C.D. Olimpia defeated the Impact 2-1 in Montreal. Thierry Henry’s team had 75% of possession and 20 shots to Olimpia’s five in that game, but they were unable to break down the Honduran side. Still, Montreal are not entirely out of this one. The neutral venue plays into the Impact’s hands as the road team. Montreal must win by two goals if they hope to advance without the aid of a penalty shootout.
Tigres vs NYCFC: Tigres earned a narrow 1-0 victory over NYCFC in the first leg, thanks to an Eduardo Vargas goal that came in the 92nd minute. NYCFC, like Montreal, benefit from the second leg being played in a neutral venue. Tigres finished as the runners up in last year’s competition, losing to a fellow Liga MX team in Monterrey. A 1-0 victory from NYCFC would mean penalties, while any other win for the MLS team would see them advance in regulation.
Atlanta United vs América: Of the four MLS teams remaining in the competition, Atlanta United are in the most dire situation. Club América beat them soundly last time out to the tune of 3-0. Unlike Montreal and NYCFC, Atlanta are the home team for this match, meaning they miss out on any home field advantage. Crazier things have happened in international club competitions, but Atlanta has a mountain to climb if they want to get back into this tie.
LAFC vs Cruz Azul: Of the four quarter-final matchups, this is the only one whose first leg was cancelled due to the pandemic. As a result, the away goals rule does not come into play. A tie will result in penalties, while either team can advance in regulation with a win of any kind. Considering they enter the game with a clean slate, LAFC might just have the best chance of advancing among the MLS teams. Cruz Azul last played on December 6th, losing 4-0 in the second leg of the Liga MX Apertura Semi Finals. LAFC’s last appearance came in a 3-1 defeat in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs on November 24th.
The Road Ahead
The semi-finals will occur on Saturday, December 19th. The winners of Tuesday’s quarter-finals will face off in one semi-final, and the winners of Wednesday’s matches will meet in the other. The final will then take place on December 22nd, a week from today.
The condensed schedule means we are going to see a lot of matches in a week’s time. The altered format will probably create a good deal of added chaos. MLS teams have struggled significantly in this tournament, especially against Mexican teams. The disorder of this year’s event might just be what is needed for a long awaited MLS triumph.
– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)