Vancouver and Dallas are waving the flag for MLS in CONCACAF this time around, representing the league in the Champions League semifinals. The Whitecaps lost in their away leg to Mexico’s Tigres 2-0 last night and will need to overturn that deficit next week at BC Place to advance to the final. Dallas hosts Pachuca tonight at 8:00 p.m. in the first leg of their semifinal series.
Montreal and RSL have made the two-legged final in recent years, with the Impact losing 5-3 to Club America in 2015 and RSL losing 3-2 to Monterrey in 2011. The LA Galaxy won the old Champions Cup tournament in 2000, following up on DC United’s win in 1998. Since the move to the Champions League format, only Mexican clubs have won the tournament.
After Vancouver’s loss last night, Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson told ESPN’s Tom Marshall that there is a gap between MLS and Liga MX squads and that "anyone that says there isn't a gap doesn't understand football". MLS teams have only won twice in the last 53 games away to Mexican clubs in the competition.
With smaller budgets, MLS teams struggle to compete with the top Mexican sides. MLS is improving each year, but until it can start to beat Mexican clubs in competitive games, it will struggle to earn the respect it chases. Signing star South American players like Atlanta United has done will help raise the profile of the league, but the trophies like CONCACAF Champions League are what is required to keep attracting bigger and bigger stars.
While Dallas is not one of the bigger spenders in MLS, the depth in quality that Oscar Pareja has at his disposal could give them a chance against Pachuca. Technical director Fernando Clavijo told MLSSoccer.com’s Will Parchman that the spending gap to be competitive is not insurmountable in the near future.
Spoke with FCD tech. director Fernando Clavijo today for a story. Asked him what it’d take $-wise to make him feel comfortable w/ the cap. pic.twitter.com/IgOmlmu7jH— Will Parchman (@WillParchman) March 15, 2017
Clavijo is not asking for an increased cap to go sign more huge names. He wants to continue improving the bottom half of the starting lineup and the first options off the bench. This is where the big difference is between MLS clubs and the rest of the hemisphere. The depth is key to success in these sorts of competitions. TAM has been a good step in the right direction, but MLS needs to continue to take the shackles off for teams to compete in the Champions League.
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Diego Maradona draws his native with the hosts !— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) March 15, 2017
Some mouth-watering games coming up, with some big ones right from day one on 20 May! pic.twitter.com/yhHOtf5KV1
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