For all the advancements that MLS has made heading into its 25th season, one thing remains abundantly clear: Liga MX is still the top league in North America.
Nothing that happens in this year’s edition of Concacaf Champions League will definitively change that, but a MLS team is going to have to win it in order for the conversation to any sort of seriousness.
The Seattle Sounders may have MLS’s best chance at jumpstarting the discussion, according to MLSsoccer.com’s Matt Doyle. While granting that the Sounders will still be underdogs to the various Liga MX teams they might encounter, the thing most working in their favor is the relative ease of their draw. The earliest the Sounders would have to face a Liga MX opponent is in the semifinals and that’s assuming Tigres UANL can get past the likes of New York City FC.
The other factor that boosts the Sounders’ hopes is their potential talent advantage.
Seattle’s argument probably rests upon how good Yeimar Gomez Andrade actually is, and how quickly he and Xavier Arreaga form a complementary duo. If that happens off the bat, and if João Paulo is as good for Seattle as he was for Botafogo (no reason to think he won’t be, for what it’s worth), then the sheer solidity of Seattle’s spine combined with the match-winning ability of Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris and Nico Lodeiro is the argument. The upside for this team might not be as high as it is with Vela or Josef, but it’s still very high, and there are probably no weak links for Seattle.
That attacking trio, let’s not forget, led the Sounders to MLS Cup a year ago and combined for 37 goals and 32 assists during the regular season and playoffs last year. In the 18 matches they’ve all started, the Sounders went 15-1-2 while scoring 2.44 goals per game.
Before any of that really starts to matter, the Sounders still have to navigate a reasonably tough Round of 16 opponent in CD Olimpia. In addition to proving a tough out in previous tournaments, Olimpia are already eight games into their league campaign and will surely be highly motivated.