Thousands of proud Montreal Impact supporters flooded the city’s Olympic Stadium, chanting in their native French. They sported their iconic black and blue scarves, the proud colors of their club. The crowd jumped and sang with excitement for hours before the matchup, marching to the stadium from their respective neighborhoods. For these fanatic Québecois soccer fans, this was the final they had been waiting for. Montreal Impact vs Club América. Major League Soccer vs Mexican fútbol. The rising Canadian/American soccer scene vs the highly established clubs of Mexico. For MLS fans across both Canada and the United States, Montreal represented a chance to prove the world wrong. If Montreal Impact could decisively defeat América in their own stadium, after an impressive first-leg draw in Mexico, they would be champions. The CONCACAF Champions League trophy, after five decades of Mexican dominance, would finally be raised by an MLS club. Yet, despite an early goal by the Impact, Montreal conceded four straight goals at the hands of a ruthless América offense. Once again, after 90 minutes played, a Mexican team raised the Champions League trophy in an MLS stadium. The city of Montreal, and Major League Soccer supporters, were left frustrated and heartbroken.
Montreal were only the second MLS team to lose to a Mexican club in a Champions League final. Much like the Impact, Real Salt Lake hosted Monterrey after a successful first-leg in Mexico. Despite only needing a draw to be crowned champions of North America, Monterrey was able to score the game winning goal against a shocked Salt Lake. Monterrey were named the 2011 CONCACAF Champions, smashing the dream of Real Salt Lake being the first Major League Soccer side to win the tournament. This trend of reaching Champions League finals, performing well in the first-leg, only to lose at home in the second, causes most MLS fans to suffer from intense soccer-depression. This troubling illness forces supporters to crawl into bed after what was supposed to be the final of their lives and slowly cry themselves to sleep (while Mexican soccer fans celebrate with the trophy). The truth is Major League Soccer fans are tired of falling short. Being runner-up is simply un-American. Thus, the question must be asked: “Why has a MLS side has never won the CONCACAF Champions League?”
Mexico’s dominance over Major League soccer is nothing new. Mexican clubs, such as Club América and Monterrey, are far more established than any MLS side. Club América itself, at 101 years old, is roughly five times older than Major League Soccer (although Club América has been known to lie about her age from time to time). Monterrey has been fielding a professional soccer team since 1945, nearly 72 years ago. Both clubs combined have won the tournament 10 times, with Club América boasting a whopping 7 titles since the tournament’s creation in 1962. In addition to this, Mexico’s top teams consistently fill their stadiums on a weekly basis, providing some of the most storied atmospheres in world soccer. In 2015, América filled their home stadium with over 66,000 supporters, according to CONCACAF website, breaking all records for Champions League attendance. This long history of soccer-rich culture and armies of loyal fans has provided Mexico with an arsenal of clubs that can win the Champions League in any given year. For these teams, it is expected that they take home the trophy, mercilessly defeating any club that dare challenge them for North American supremacy. These clubs have been bullying American soccer clubs on the pitch since the 60’s. Whether it was in black & white, color, HD, or 4K, Mexico has been handing out wedgies to any American club that dared challenge them, demonstrating Mexico’s passion for the beautiful game. The MLS is simply too young and too small to compete with the Mexican clubs on an international stage, especially the Champions League. But don’t worry Major League Soccer fans, because there’s hope.
Glass is half-empty: an MLS club has never won the CONCACAF Champions League. Glass is half-full: two MLS sides, from a league only 23 years old, have made the Champions League final and nearly defeated some of the world’s most experienced clubs. The latter is far more revealing. The Mexican soccer scene may be the largest and oldest in North America, but the MLS isn’t far behind. For it’s age, Major League Soccer has greatly impressed. Think of it this way America: MLS is a kid who just got out of college. Unless you’re a Harvard genius who dropped out and started Facebook, it takes time to figure things out and eventually build a meaningful career. Major League soccer is still growing. The League is still figuring things out.
It is impossible to deny that the MLS is growing at an unprecedented rate, expanding to some of the largest cities in the United States and Canada. This increase in investment, and the inspiring support these MLS clubs have received from their supporter groups, will only add to the prestige of Major League Soccer and its teams. When Real Salt Lake challenged Monterrey for the title, a mere 18 clubs played in the MLS. The Spring in which Montreal Impact hosted Club América, the league had reached 20 clubs total. This year, in 2017, 22 soccer clubs find themselves playing in Major League soccer, including the promising Atlanta United FC and New York City FC. Both veteran teams and newly established clubs have begun to sign top foreign talent (most still in their prime), bringing over stars such as David Villa, Giovani Dos Santos, and Sebastian Giovinco. In addition to this, young, homegrown stars, such as Jordan Morris and Jack Harrison show promise for the future of local American soccer.
So, it’s as simple as this: the more funding from investors and the more interest from the public, the better the MLS becomes. Already, Major League Soccer is positioning itself to become a prominent league in North America and challenge the Mexican League for soccer dominance. More money equals better players. More franchises means better competition. And more interest from supporters will result in a stronger American-Canadian soccer culture. Only then, when the MLS has developed into a top-tier soccer league, can clubs challenge Mexico for the ultimate trophy: the Champions League. Be patient MLS lovers, your time will come.
Oh, and when an MLS side is crowned champion of North America, let’s hope the trophy is raised in a Mexican stadium. Preferably Club América’s Estadio Azteca. Payback bro.