The 2023 CONCACAF Champions League Final is almost at hand with clubs in the USA and Mexico vying for a spot to bring home the trophy.
It’s hard to avoid thinking along cultural and geographic divides when scripts write themselves as cleanly as they have leading into the two-legged, away and home, final fixture.
Sixteen teams from eight associations have battled their way to the semifinals with Liga MX Club León and Tigres UANL on one side, and Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union and LAFC on the other, rekindling the drama embers from MLS Cup 2022.
And now for the semis, the script has gotten … a little complicated with a draw on the American side and a goal difference down in Mexico. León and LAFC have some comfort in having an away goal each and will bank on their home stadiums to roll out a less-than-friendly welcome to Tigres and the Union when they visit next week.
LAFC’s younger history hasn’t given the Angelenos much to talk about in the grand scheme of things but the Black and Gold has already proven to be a thorn in Philly’s side with four draws and last year’s command victory in penalties over their last five matches. The hard-fought match and first MLS title for the Angelenos will no doubt cast a shadow over the Union going into the BMO on May 2.
LA hit the ground running with a 3–nil away victory over Costa Rica’s Alajuelense before falling at the BMO 1–2. But Cherundolo’s lads came into the quarters hungry, trouncing the Whitecaps with back-to-back 3–nil drubbings.
While Philadelphia had it relatively easy with El Salvador’s Alianza FC, they were taken to the ropes by Atlas – their narrow, one goal victory at home was a gamble heading into the hostilities of the Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara. Julián Carranza’s brace, however, proved to be the miracle they needed to advance.
Tigres opened their campaign with a bit of a doldrum victory over Orlando City on a 1–1 aggregate boosted by an away goal from Mexico international midfielder Sebastián Córdova. Then, in the quarters they dispensed a not-so-subtle, 6–nil aggregate beatdown of Honduran side Motagua. Now, looking at the second leg – their away game, Tigres has a slight comfort going in with a goal in their favor.
For Léon, the Champions League opened with a breezy victory over Panama’s Tauro FC which they followed with another walk in the park over Haiti’s Violette. They’ll have the hometown advantage coming into the May 3 match and Victor Dávila’s away goal up their sleeves.
The Liga MX rivalry between these sides goes back a long time. Their recent history, or rather, the last 28 matches show a certain mathematical evenness with nine draws and Tigres leading with 11 victories over Léon’s eight.
Uncertainty Makes Things More Interesting
Soccer always gives you the chance to redeem yourself and for the Union, this could be sweet revenge for last year’s MLS Cup. León could use a victory to further balance the pendulum between themselves and Tigres.
No matter who wins, one thing is guaranteed: The 2023 CONCACAF Champions League Final will pit a Mexican team versus and American one – and if hip hop pioneers De La Soul were ever prophetically right about one thing, it’s that for this match, the stakes are high.
The CONCACAF Champions League Finals first leg will take place on Wednesday, May 31 and the second leg on Sunday, June 4.