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The Daily Dirt, March 15: Our Champions League

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MLS tries to get over the hump in CONCACAF

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-C.D. Suchitepequez at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.


Domestic

Vancouver Whitecaps lose 2-0 in first leg of CONCACAF Champions League semifinal against Tigres (Eighty Six Forever)

Brek Shea is not making friends in Monterrey...

Hype trains leaving the station for Houston, San Jose, and Chicago (MLS)

A case for starting Colorado Rapids home games earlier (Burgundy Wave)

Joe Bendik chose to stay with Orlando City because of his love for the city (Orlando Sentinel)

Will the NWSL’s TV/streaming plans connect with fans? (Equalizer Soccer)

International

USMNT forward Aron Johannsson could be on the move from Werder Bremen (ESPN)

The U20 World Cup draw is complete. The U.S. is in Group F with Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal.

Local

Atlanta soccer product, former Atletico Madrid youth player Dembakwi Yomba signs with Reno 1868 (USL)