Columbus Crew, CONCACAF Champions Cup
Columbus Crew is the first MLS team since LAFC in 2018 to eliminate two Mexican teams in a single CCL/CCC edition Via @ColumbusCrew on X/Twitter

SEATTLE - The beauty of soccer lies on the unpredictable, and Columbus Crew stoic performances against Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals gave us a reminder that Major League Soccer is more competitive than ever.

Columbus' dream run to the final saw them eliminate two of the teams with the biggest budget in the region in Tigres and Monterrey, becoming the first MLS team to defeat five-time winners 'Rayados' over a two-legged tie.

The last 12 months has seen a huge shift in the dynamic between both leagues, with MLS teams dominating Liga MX sides in the Leagues Cup. The tournament that was won by Lionel Messi's Inter Miami saw MLS and Liga MX teams face off in 16 knockout ties, with Major League Soccer winning 11 of those.

What we saw at last year's Leagues Cup is similar to the growth shown by MLS teams at the other joint competition they have with Liga MX. In the five editions of the Campeones Cup, MLS teams have won three of the five clashes, tilting the balance in the rivalry for the first time in years.

This Champions Cup season saw Liga MX sides clash with MLS teams on eight occasions and the only team that managed to advance in those situations was Columbus, eliminating Tigres in the quarters and taking care of 'Rayados' in the semifinals. If they manage to win the final against Pachuca, Columbus would tie LAFC (2018) as the only teams to eliminate three or more Mexican teams in a single edition.

Historically, CONCACAF has been ruled by Mexican teams but, for the past five seasons, MLS teams have started to tilt the balance. Since 2008-09, Major League Soccer teams have advanced in 16 of the ties in which they faced a Liga MX team with 10 of those eliminations coming in the last five seasons (2020-24).

By reaching the final, Columbus became the seventh different MLS team in the modern era to make it this far in the competition, but only one side has managed to win it in more than two decades. Before the Seattle Sounders broke Mexico's 16-year dominance in 2022, the only other MLS teams to have won the regional competition were the LA Galaxy (2000) and the D.C. United (1998).

Raúl Ruidíaz, Seattle Sounders
In 2022, Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team in more than 20 years to win CONCACAF's continental competition Seattle Sounders FC

Although MLS has significantly improved their historical head-to-head record in recent times, Mexican clubs still dominates by a lot, winning 76 of the 143 games played between both leagues since 2008-09 (53%).

The final, set to be played on June 1 at Pachuca's Estadio Hidalgo, will give the winner CONCACAF's last ticket to next year's FIFA Club World Cup set to be played in the United States. In the previous eight finals between teams from both leagues, Toronto FC is the only one to have won a final game on Mexican soil, defeating Chivas 2-1 in Guadalajara (Chivas won on 4-2 on penalties).

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.