MLS performance in the CONCACAF Champions League
Major League Soccer teams have participated in the CONCACAF Champions League each season since the tournament began its current format in 2008–09. Previously, MLS teams played in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. MLS may send up to five teams to the CONCACAF Champions League each season — up to four from the United States, and up to one from Canada.
The first MLS team to finish first in its group was Real Salt Lake in 2010. The best performance by an MLS team to date occurred in 2018, when Toronto FC reached the finals, before losing to Mexico's Guadalajara 4–2 on penalties following a 3–3 scoreline on aggregate. Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact have both also reached the finals, losing to Monterrey in 2011 and América in 2015, respectively. MLS teams have never won the Champions League under its current format since 2008–09, and therefore have not sent a team to the FIFA Club World Cup.
Performance by round
The following table shows the number of MLS participants in the Champions League each season, as well as the number of MLS teams that have reached various stages in the knockout rounds. MLS teams performed poorly during the first two years, as fixture congestion from the Superliga tournament as well as CONCACAF Champions League preliminary rounds meant that MLS teams often fielded teams without their first choice players.
- MLS sent only four teams to the Champions League in 2008–09 because the Canadian team, the Montreal Impact, played in the minor-league United Soccer Leagues at the time.
Performance by opposition
The following table shows the performance of MLS teams in the knockout rounds for each home-and-away series for opponents from various leagues. During the first nine seasons of the Champions League, MLS teams did not play any foreign teams in knockout stage other than Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama. With the change in tournament format in the 2018 season, specifically with the knockout rounds now including a round of 16, MLS teams play knockout matches against a greater variety of countries.
In the Champions League knockout rounds, MLS teams have played Mexican teams more than any other country, in some years facing multiple matchups. Seattle's 2013 quarterfinal win over Mexico's Tigres was the first time since the Champions League format began in 2008–09 that an MLS team eliminated a Mexican team in the knockout rounds. Montreal repeated the feat in 2015 when they beat Mexico's Pachuca in the quarterfinals. In 2018, Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls both advanced to the semifinals by beating Mexican teams, the first time that two MLS teams eliminated two Mexican teams in the same tournament. MLS' improved performance against Mexican teams was attributed to MLS club academies focused on player development, and an increase in player salaries through the league's Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) program.
|Totals||6–25 (19%)||4–1 (80%)||2–2 (50%)||1–0 (100%)||1–0 (100%)||1–0 (100%)||1–0 (100%)|
CONCACAF Club Index
The CONCACAF Club Index was introduced in 2018 as a way of seeding the 16 teams in the knockout rounds. The index is based on the past five prior years' results. Points are awarded as follows: 4 for participation, 3 for a win, 2 for Champions, 1 for draw, and 1 for stage advanced.
The following table shows the index for the five MLS teams. For context, the table also shows the index for the lowest-ranked Mexican club and the highest-ranked Central American club.
|2018 Rank: Team (points)||2019 Rank: Team (points)|
||4 — |
||5 — |
||6 — |
||7 — |
||8 — |
||9 — |
||10 — |
Performance by team
Champions' Cup era
MLS teams joined the Champions' Cup in its 1997 edition, and a total of nine teams earned berths before it was ceased in 2008.
|Chicago Fire||3||11||6||1||4||18||14||3rd Place|
|Colorado Rapids||1||2||1||0||1||3||4||Preliminary Round|
|Kansas City Wizards||2||14||3||2||3||9||11||Semifinals|
|New England Revolution||2||8||1||1||2||3||6||Quarterfinals|
|San Jose Earthquakes||3||8||5||0||3||10||12||Quarterfinals|
Champions League era
20 MLS teams have appeared in the CONCACAF Champions League since the inaugural 2008–09 season.
Canadian teams in MLS – Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps – qualify to the Champions League via a separate competition, the Canadian Championship, and they represent the Canadian Soccer Association. The only time MLS standings were used for Canadian teams qualification was the 2014 season to determine the 2015–16 Champions League representative as the Canadian Championship format was changed that season.
Starting in 2018, the group stage was removed, so MLS teams now start in the Round of 16 (first round).
|Atlanta United FC||2||4||2||0||2||6||6||0||Quarterfinals|
|Chivas USA*||1||2||0||1||1||1||3||–2||Preliminary Round|
|Colorado Rapids||2||8||2||2||4||9||14||–5||Group Stage|
|Columbus Crew SC||2||16||6||4||6||20||22||–2||Quarterfinals|
|Los Angeles FC||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||TBD|
|New England Revolution||1||2||0||0||2||1||6||–5||Preliminary Round|
|New York City FC||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||TBD|
|New York Red Bulls||5||22||8||8||6||27||19||+8||Semifinals|
|Portland Timbers||2||8||5||1||2||22||13||+9||Group Stage|
|Real Salt Lake||3||22||11||6||5||34||22||+12||Finals|
|San Jose Earthquakes||1||6||2||2||2||6||4||+2||Quarterfinals|
|Seattle Sounders FC||5||36||16||5||15||54||50||+4||Semifinals|
|Sporting Kansas City||4||20||9||4||7||31||30||+1||Semifinals|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FCǂ||2||12||6||2||4||16||12||+4||Semifinals|
ǂ – teams representing Canada
* – team folded
App – CCL appearances
GP – games played
W, D, L – win, draw, loss
GF, GA – goals for, goals against
Other continental competitions
MLS teams have participated in other continental competitions.
- "The Throw-In: Real Salt Lake's Champions League run? For MLS' sake, forget it ever happened", MLS Soccer, March 20, 2014.
- "TFC suffers heartbreak on penalties in CONCACAF Champions League final". CBC Sports. April 25, 2018.
- "CONCACAF Champions League is Different, but Will MLS's Fortunes Change at All?", Sports Illustrated, February 20, 2018.
- "It’s MLS vs. Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals", Washington Post, Steven Goff, October 22, 2015.
- "CCL Match Recap: Seattle Sounders 3, Tigres UANL 1", MLS Soccer, March 13, 2013.
- "Montreal's epic moment caps CONCACAF Champions League QFs", ESPN FC, Arch Bell, March 6, 2015.
- "There's no longer a big gap in the level of play between Mexico's Liga MX and MLS, Donovan says", L.A. Times, Kevin Baxter, March 17, 2018.
- "CONCACAF Champions League will benefit from MLS wins over Liga MX", ESPN, Tom Marshall, March 15, 2018.
- "CONCACAF announces draw procedure for 2018 Champions League", MLS Soccer, November 29, 2017.