Starting this week, four Mexican clubs take on the challenge of restoring Liga MX supremacy to the Concacaf Champions League.
Reigning champions Seattle will not be taking part in this year’s tournament, but the Sounders are still basking in the glow of ending the run of 16 consecutive Liga MX CCL champions.
Only two other MLS clubs have claimed Concacaf bragging rights – DC United in 1998 and LA Galaxy in 2000.
Liga MX pride was wounded when Seattle hoisted the trophy last season, especially as the Sounders trounced León in the quarterfinals (4-1 aggregate) then coasted past UNAM in the final (5-2 on aggregate).
Liga MX is well-represented
This year’s Liga MX foursome is Atlas, León, Pachuca and Tigres.
The first three clubs earned their place by reaching the Liga MX Finals (Atlas defeating León in the Apertura 2021 Final then winning the title again against Pachuca in the Clausura 2022). Tigres was selected by virtue of having the best win coefficient during the 2021-2022 footballing year.
Since winning their back-to-back titles, Atlas has suffered a decline due to injuries and fatigue. The Zorros failed to make the playoffs last season and find themselves in 14th place in the current Liga MX campaign.
“Los Rojinegros” still have their primary starters from their bicampeonato but they have struggled to produce on the pitch this season. First-year coach Benjamin Mora and his charges travel to San Pedro Sula to face Honduran side Olimpia on Wednesday then host the Catrachos at Estadio Jalisco on March 14.
Tigres currently sits in second place in Liga MX and star striker André-Pierre Gignac is expected back in the line-up after missing two games due to a thigh complaint. The Monterrey-based club won the Concacaf title in 2020 and are eager to take home the silverware again.
“Los felinos” host MLS team Orlando City SC tonight before traveling to Florida for the return match on March 15. Pundits see Tigres as the best bet for Liga MX to return to the CCL podium.
Reigning Liga MX champs Pachuca last won the CCL title in 2017, their fifth Concacaf trophy. The Tuzos are a good bet to make a deep run in this year’s tournament and they are in fine form, climbing to fourth in the league table after a 3-0 hammering of América on Saturday.
Pachuca will follow in Atlas’ footsteps, playing in San Pedro Sula on Thursday night with Motagua playing host. The Hondurans will visit Estadio Hidalgo for the second leg on March 16.
No doubt, León feels it owes its fans after face-planting against Seattle last year at the quarterfinal stage. The Esmeraldas have yet to win a CCL title and coach Nicolás Larcamón would love nothing less than to earn some continental hardware in his first season in charge of “La Fiera.”
León faces Panamanian club Tauro in the Round of 16, traveling to Panama City for Wednesday’s first leg before hosting “Los Toros” at the Camp Nou on March 16.
Other Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 match-ups
The other four pairings kicking off this week feature three MLS teams, three Central American teams and one club each from Haiti and Canada.
The match-ups are as follows:
- Violette AC (Haiti) vs Austin FC (MLS)
- Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS) vs Real España (Honduras)
- Alajuelense (Costa Rica) vs LA Galaxy (MLS)
- Alianza (El Salvador) vs Philadelphia Union (MLS)