Mexican sides primed for CCL success
Rejoice, North American soccer fans, the CONCACAF Champions League is just one day away from beginning. Although the tournament has gone through a multitude of format changes and even a name modification, there has always been one constant: Mexican domination.
Since the start of the modern version of the contest in 2008, a Liga MX side has always been crowned the champion. In fact, since 2008, only once has the runners-up come from outside Mexico (Real Salt Lake in the 2010-11 tournament).
Mexican squads have won the championship 30 times in the entire history of the event, more than all other involved countries combined. Will this dominance continue once again?
While it is hard to assess the Mexican squads after they have played only three games in the regular season, it would be difficult to assume that they won't do well in the group stage.
Pachuca will be facing Real Espana of Honduras and Municipal of Guatemala, two teams that have never made it past the group stage of the tournament. While critics could point out their average start to their season, Los Tuzos will have a significant mental advantage having won the contest back in the 2009-10 season.
America currently looks like the best team in Mexico and should easily clear the hurdle of Guatemala's Comunicaciones and Puerto Rico's Bayamon FC. Like the Belmopan Bandits, this will be the first time that Bayamon FC will play in the CONCACAF Champions League. America was embarrassed with an early exit last year and will seek to not let it happen twice in a row.
The only real doubt lies with Cruz Azul. La Maquina have been quite underwhelming so far this season and have to take on Alajuelense in the group stage. The Costa Rican side has won the tournament two separate times and finished in the semifinals during last year's competition. Last year they were able to beat America twice and have lost only one home game in their past three seasons participating in the competition.
It's a bit of an early prediction, but a Leon and America final would make sense. Leon has faltered in the early stages of the Liga MX and may decide to focus energy on winning its first Champions League trophy. America, on the other hand, has proven to be a powerful team in the Liga MX and has enough talent to make it into the final match.
Pachuca may not have the depth to get past the semifinals and Cruz Azul would be considered lucky to get past the group stage. It should prove to be another successful year for Mexico, but the squads should still be wary of some unexpected performances from the their CONCACAF brothers.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.