Possible Growth for Mexican Clubs in CCL

Liga MX teams have always done well in the CONCACAF Champions League. But would it be better if they lost?
by Brendan Doherty   |   Saturday, March 16, 2013

 MEX Matters - column on Liga MX, El Tri & Mexican futbol.

Throughout the history of CONCACAF continental club competitions, and especially since the formation of the Champions League, Mexican clubs have won without equal.

Of the last 25 editions of CCL and Champions Cup, only 4 finals have not featured a Mexican club. Five Mexican clubs have claimed as many titles and runners-up positions as all American teams combined.

However, in the coming years as MLS sides show even more attention to it, the CCL will become a more competitive tournament and more difficult for Mexican teams.

During the 1990s, the tournament was called the CONCACAF Champions Cup and was a knockout cup competition. During this phase, American teams won their only two titles.

In 1998, D.C. United bested Leon in the semifinals and Toluca in the finals after only having to win 3 games, all at home and all within a 6-day period. Similarly, LA Galaxy won the competition in just three games against non-Mexican teams (2 after penalty kicks), all in the LA area and all within a 6-day period in 2000.

Recent CCL

Since that time, the competition has evolved to include more teams from more countries, incorporate a home and away knockout series and finally to use group stages.

As with most of the history in the cross-border soccer rivalry, Mexican teams have been dominant against American teams. Since the latest restructuring into the Champions League format, Mexican teams have won all 4 titles and have made up 7 of the 8 semifinalists.

This superiority can be shown farther looking at the competitive record between Mexican and American clubs in recent years. In the 2008-09 campaign, Mexican teams won 4 and tied 2 games against MLS sides. The next year, Primera Division clubs won 6 and tied 2 games against MLS. In the 2010-11, Mexican sides won 5, tied 1 and lost two matches on American soil. Mexican teams lost to MLS teams for the first time at home during the 2011-2012 campaign and had a record of 6 wins and 4 losses. During the current tournament, Liga MX teams have 2 wins and 2 losses against MLS sides going into the semifinals.

Looking at the semifinalists this season confirms a trend that has been developing for some time: American clubs are now the best teams in the region behind Mexican clubs. Monterrey will face the LA Galaxy and Santos Laguna face Seattle Sounders in a rematch of last year's quarterfinal matchup.

These two-legged semifinal matches will take place over the first two weeks of April.

CCL vs Copa Libertadores

Since 1998, Mexican teams have been involved in the Copa Libertadores, the premier South American club competition. Chivas de Guadalajara made it to the Libertadores final in 2010, the second time a Mexican team has, but lost against SC Internacional from Brazil. Despite the FIFA Club World Cup slot on the line in CCL, many Mexican fans still view the Libertadores as a more important competition.

That perception is changing as MLS teams are becoming stronger each year (proven by improved records against Mexican teams) and the relative stabilization of Central American leagues means that a Honduran or Costa Rican club team can make a fuss in the CCL.

The CCL is not generally as important as the league for Mexican fans (as is also the case for MLS fans, I think), as long as Mexican teams continue to do well. One reason Copa Libertadores is so interesting to fans is because their Mexican team could very well play a much better team. CONCACAF cannot yet offer this high level of competition.

Time to lose?

Due to poor performances against MLS teams back in 2011, there was a surge of outrage from soccer media and fans alike in Mexico. Youth national teams had just performed well at the U-20 World Cup in Colombia and had won the U-17 World Cup title in front of a home crowd. Many soccer fans felt that Mexican clubs Pumas, which lost at home to FC Dallas, and Monterrey, which lost at home to Seattle Sounders, were soiling the glory that the young internationals had amassed just a couple months earlier.

That episode helps to explain the complex relationship fans of Mexican soccer teams hold with the CCL. The best thing that could happen to drive interest in the competition in Mexico is if one or both of the remaining two clubs lose. This edition of the CCL has the potential to produce the exact result needed to kickstart the legitimacy of the tournament on both sides of the border and for fans of all CONCACAF club teams.


Hamilton College
Club Domestic:
Rochester Rhinos, RBNY
Club Foreign:
Tottenham, Club América
Household Jeopardy champion from a small town in Upstate New York. Simultaneously brought to Tottenham Hotspur by a youth coach & given a copy of FIFA 2004. Enthusiastically pragmatic & a student of the game. Covering the Mexican National Team & Liga MX.