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.[1] 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.[2] Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact have both also reached the finals, losing to Monterrey in 2011 and América in 2015, respectively.[1] 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.

Beginning in 2018, the Champions League format was changed to eliminate group play and the knockout round starts with sixteen teams rather than eight.[3]

TournamentParticipantsQuarter-
finalists
Semi-
finalists
FinalistsChampions
2008–0941
2009–1051
2010–115211
2011–12531
2012–13532
2013–1453
2014–155211
2015–1654
2016–17532
20185321
2019541

Notes:

  • 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.[4] 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.[5] Montreal repeated the feat in 2015 when they beat Mexico's Pachuca in the quarterfinals.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

Tournament Mexico Costa Rica Panama Honduras El Salvador Guatemala Dominican Republic
2008–090–1
2009–100–1
2010–110–11–0
2011–120–2
2012–131–31–0
2013–140–3
2014–151–11–1
2015–160–4
2016–170–21–0
20183–30–11–01–0
20191–41–01–11–01–0
Totals6–25 (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.[9] 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 — Tijuana (101) 4 — Toronto FC (84)
5 — New York Red Bulls (76) 5 — Houston Dynamo (77)
6 — Toronto FC (73) 6 — Toluca (75)
7 — Seattle Sounders FC (73) 7 — New York Red Bulls (65)
8 — FC Dallas (71) 8 — Atlanta United (64)
9 — Colorado Rapids (71) 9 — Independiente (57)
10 — Saprissa (65) 10 — Sporting Kansas City (56)

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.

D.C. United (1998) and LA Galaxy (2000) are the only Champions' Cup winners from the United States, and remain the only MLS teams to have won a CONCACAF championship.

TeamAppGPWDLGFGABest Result
Chicago Fire31161418143rd Place
Colorado Rapids1210134Preliminary Round
Columbus Crew1420268Quarterfinals
D.C. United82513574430Winner
Houston Dynamo28323910Semifinals
Kansas City Wizards214323911Semifinals
LA Galaxy545542221Winner
New England Revolution2811236Quarterfinals
San Jose Earthquakes385031012Quarterfinals
TOTAL84391629124116Winner (2)

Champions League era

20 MLS teams have appeared in the CONCACAF Champions League since the inaugural 2008–09 season.

Real Salt Lake in 2010–11, Montreal Impact in 2014–15 and Toronto FC in 2018 are the only teams that played in the competition's finals, but all three have failed to win the continental title.

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).

TeamAppGPWDLGFGAGDBest Result
Atlanta United FC24202660Quarterfinals
Chivas USA*1201113–2Preliminary Round
Colorado Rapids28224914–5Group Stage
Columbus Crew SC2166462022–2Quarterfinals
FC Dallas3189362725+2Semifinals
D.C. United42611693836+2Quarterfinals
Houston Dynamo52811893634+2Quarterfinals
LA Galaxy53015695236+16Semifinals
Los Angeles FC10000000TBD
Montreal Impactǂ4146442217+5Finals
New England Revolution1200216–5Preliminary Round
New York City FC10000000TBD
New York Red Bulls5228862719+8Semifinals
Portland Timbers285122213+9Group Stage
Real Salt Lake32211653422+12Finals
San Jose Earthquakes1622264+2Quarterfinals
Seattle Sounders FC536165155450+4Semifinals
Sporting Kansas City4209473130+1Semifinals
Toronto FCǂ6341410104645+1Finals
Vancouver Whitecaps FCǂ2126241612+4Semifinals
TOTAL30813372103448394+54Finals (3)

ǂ – teams representing Canada
* – team folded
App – CCL appearances
GP – games played
W, D, L – win, draw, loss
GF, GA – goals for, goals against

Records

Biggest win: 6 goals margin
Portland Timbers 6–0 Alpha United (2014–15 Group stage)

Biggest defeat: 5 goals margin
Santos Laguna 6–1 Seattle Sounders FC (2011–12 Quarter-finals, first leg)
Monterrey 5–0 Sporting Kansas City (2019 Semi-finals, first leg)

Other continental competitions

MLS teams have participated in other continental competitions.

Copa Sudamericana

  • 2005 — D.C. United played in the Round of 16, where they lost 3–4 in aggregate over two legs (1–1, 2–3) to Chile's Universidad Católica.
  • 2007 — D.C. United played in the Round of 16, where they lost 2–2 on aggregate on away goals (2–1, 0–1) to Mexico's Guadalajara.

See also

References

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