Liga MX Power Rankings: Monterrey go top, Oscar Pareja's Tijuana make a major jump
MEXICO CITY -- CONCACAF Champions League fever is upon us. With the notable exception of Panama's Independiente facing off against Sporting Kansas City, the business end of the competition has given us three direct matchups between Liga MX and MLS teams for fans to enjoy.
Liga MX's dominance of the regional competition is well documented. Since 2006, the league's streak of 13 straight championships remains unbroken. Due to this historical supremacy, in its nearly six-decade history, the CCL has served to fill the coffers of most Mexican teams at one time or another. This week, we'll look at each team's history within the tournament as we gear up for this year's quarterfinals.
Here are the Power Rankings for Week 9:
Total CCL titles: Zero. Though they've captured seven league titles over their history, Los Panzas Verdes have had little luck on the international scene. The closest they've gotten to CCL glory was in 1993, when they finished runners-up to Saprissa. The good news? They're looking more and more like playoff favorites with performances like the one shown last Saturday against Santos Laguna.
Total CCL titles: Zero. Club America and Pachuca denied Tigres a chance to represent CONCACAF at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2016 and 2017, adding two big chapters to the story of the Monterrey club's inability to translate their domestic dominance to the international stage. They have another chance this year, facing Houston Dynamo in the quarterfinals. They head into the matchup with the Texas-based club with six consecutive victories in tow, their most recent coming this past weekend against Pachuca.
Total CCL titles: Zero. Upon winning their only league title in 2012, Xolos stalled in the semifinals of the 2013-14 CCL, losing to eventual champs Cruz Azul. Under Oscar Pareja this season, Tijuana have become a playoff contender after a rough start, including a solid win over Atlas last weekend.
Total CCL titles: Two. The defending champions are not in this year's tournament, but their chances of returning depend wholly on whether Jose Cardozo's side shocks the league and barrels into the league final. After a loss against Monterrey, the real tests begin as they gear up to face rival Club America in both the Copa MX and the league over the next 10 days.
Total CCL titles: Seven. The competition's most successful team is the only squad to win titles in five different decades, spanning back to 1977. They're an impressive 7-0 in finals as well, one of three multiple-time winners to never lose a championship round. Club America will be back in the tournament in 2020, a product of their most recent Liga MX title, one they hope to defend despite an uneven start that includes a 2-2 draw against Morelia on Friday.
Total CCL titles: Zero. Two-time runners-up, Morelia suffered consecutive heartbreaks in 2002 and 2003. After firing Roberto Hernandez as their manager, Los Monarcas have turned to former Leon boss Javier Torrente, who immediately made waves by leading his team to a 2-2 draw against Club America. It's likely too late to make a playoff run this season, but Morelia have plenty of time to regroup after the summer.
Total CCL titles: Zero. The club hailing from Puebla is still focused on survival at the domestic level, let alone playing in an international competition. They appear closer to that goal after another positive result though, their win over Pumas on Sunday. Lobos' boss, Francisco Palencia, does have some experience in that regard, however, as the former Cruz Azul striker won the competition twice as a player -- in 1996 and 1997.
Total CCL titles: Six. Their dramatic 2014 win over Toluca appeared to signal the end of a lean period in which they'd gone nearly two decades without a Liga MX title at the time. The domestic drought continues to this day, but Cruz Azul will return to the CCL thanks to their Apertura 2018 final run. With a 2-1 win over Necaxa on Saturday, Cruz Azul appear to have stopped the bleeding somewhat after a rough start to their season.
Total CCL titles: Two. Winners in 1968 and 2003, Toluca bowed out of this season's competition with a shocking performance against Sporting Kansas City in the Round of 16. That means they'll have to wait for a chance to join the likes of Pumas, Monterrey and Saprissa as three-time winners. A win over Veracruz sets the stage for new manager Ricardo La Volpe to come in on a positive note and help right the ship.
Total CCL titles: One. Their lone win came in 1999, helping them reach the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup, in which they drew Manchester United in the group stage en route to a third-place finish. Since then, the club has not returned to the tournament -- and it appears they won't do so in 2020, either. A loss against Cruz Azul on Saturday diminished their fading playoff hopes.
Total CCL titles: Three. It's been 30 years since Pumas last lifted the continental title, but they could have had a fourth if not for their 2005 loss to Saprissa. It's been a tumultuous season for UNAM at the league level, and new boss Bruno Marioni has cooled off after a fast start, highlighted by Pumas slipping to a surprising loss to Lobos BUAP on Sunday.
Total CCL titles: Zero. Two second-place finishes in 2012 and 2013 (both to Monterrey) remain the peaks of the side's CCL performances. That could very well change this season, as Santos preps to face off against New York Red Bulls in the quarterfinals. They come into the series after being belted 3-0 by Leon on Saturday, albeit after resting a few starters.
Total CCL titles: Five. In the span of 15 years, Pachuca has racked up a handful of CCL wins, including their most recent championship in 2017. In order to return to the tournament, they'll need to return to form quickly in Liga MX, as they've dropped two straight under Martin Palermo, most recently to Tigres.
Total CCL titles: One. The 1991 win remains the only international success for Puebla in their seven-decade history. This season has been a mixed bag for La Franja, but manager Jose Luis Sanchez Sola , better known as "Chelis," has helped them on to some recent wins, including Monday night's triumph over Queretaro to close out the slate of Week 9 matches.
Total CCL titles: Zero. This should be an easy trivia question. Atlas has not won a league title since 1951, before CONCACAF was even founded. They're still searching for their first tournament berth, as well. It looks like that will have to wait even longer, as this season has not gone according to plan. The most recent result to Tijuana was their fourth consecutive loss in the Clausura.
Total CCL titles: Zero. Similarly, Veracruz has gone ages without a league title (1950) and remain one of the few Mexican clubs not to have their day in the CCL. After the Clausura, Veracruz will likely have a more difficult endeavor, playing (or buying) their way back into Liga MX as they look set to make the drop after the season ends.
Total CCL titles: Zero. Though they've never won the Liga MX title, Los Gallos Blancos did make a CCL, product of a finals berth in 2015. In the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League, Queretaro made the semifinals before bowing out to Tigres. Spoiler alert: they won't be back anytime soon. Though the team picked up their first win of the season a week ago with new boss Victor Manuel Vucetich, the Clausura 2019 looks to be over for them.