The Concacaf Champions League has never been won by an MLS team. This iteration of the competition has happened eleven times and an MLS team has only reached the final three times. So many excuses have been made over the years about why this has happened, both fantastical and rooted in reality. The Mexican teams are stronger, faster, better, and richer. MLS’s calendar is different. The format is weird. Whatever. It’s been an impossible mountain for any MLS team to climb, let alone the Seattle Sounders.
That’s all in the past, though. This year? Out of all of the MLS teams involved, the Sounders have the best chance of winning the whole damn thing. They’re entering CCL with the strongest roster they’ve had to start a season in some time. They have the easiest draw of any MLS team, at least on paper. And if last season’s run to winning the MLS Cup taught us anything, it’s that this team knows what it takes to get weird and win. Trust me. If the Sounders are going to become the first MLS team to win the Champions League, things will definitely have to get weird.
The start of the season has become a bit of a meme within the Sounders fan base, and one of the points of contention is that the team has started prior seasons with at least one or two holes in the roster. Whether it be the lack of a 3rd “true” Designated Player or other perceived weaknesses. I don’t mean to use this point to relitigate our past arguments, but none of those points can be made about this squad. We have 3 DPs. We have TAM players all over the roster. Garth Lagerwey and crew have used all of the necessary roster mechanisms to put forward a very, very strong squad with the intention of winning this tournament.
The thing that is true about knockout competitions in soccer is you have to beat the teams you play. Nothing else matters. It’s similar to the playoffs in that the goal of the enterprise is to make sure you get to the lift the big shiny thing at the end of the road. Part of that is beating the teams in front of you. Olimpia is not a walk in the park, but the Sounders should be favored to advance. If they manage to do so they would play either the Montreal Impact or Costa Rican side Saprissa in the Quarter-Finals. It’s likely that the Sounders could make it all the way to the Semi-Finals before they face a team that they wouldn’t be favored to beat. I’ll take those odds.
Let’s Get Weird 2: Electric Boogaloo
I’ll be the first person to tell you that CCL is a confusing and messy tournament. In recent years the governing body has done a good job of trying to make the competition more streamlined but Concacaf is still Concacaf. It’s easy to think of this tournament as happening this season, but it’s actually a part of last season. Weird, I know. But this team does weird. Better than anyone else, I might add. If the Sounders are going to make a run in this year’s tournament things will have to get weird. That’s naturally going to happen when you’re finishing one season while starting another one. The Sounders will probably have to make some sacrifices to the beginning of the MLS regular season — every MLS team that plays in CCL does. But, we’re potentially a few weeks away from lifting another big shiny thing just a few months after we lifted the MLS Cup. I think it’s worth it. Are you ready to get weird if it means glory?