Both the Sounders and Galaxy were able to put to rest last year’s disappointing losses as favorites in the quarterfinals round of CONCACAF Champions League play with impressive aggregate wins in this year’s quarterfinals round over rivals Tigres of Mexico and Heredia of Costa Rica.
Seattle’s was a comeback win Tuesday night in front of their raucous home crowd, with three goals in a row to answer a 2-0 deficit and win the aggregate 3-2.
The Sounders played the second half with a man advantage after a Tigres player was redcarded late in the first half.
After a scoreless draw in Costa Rica last week, LA started strong Wednesday night on their home turf with one goal early and three more added in the second half, including one goal and one assist from Robbie Keane. LA went on to win 4-1 and win the aggregate 4-1.
Before Seattle and LA can meet in the Cup final, they will be tested first by two reputable Mexican sides: Santos and Monterrey.
Monterrey is the two-time defending Champion Cup winner. Last year, Monterrey beat Santos in the final.
In the two-legged semifinals, Seattle plays Santos (Laguna) and LA plays Monterrey.
The importance of Champions Cup has grown with each passing season. No MLS team has won the trophy since the change in the format, and the winner goes on to play the FIFA Club World Cup at the end of the year. Real Salt Lake was the last MLS team to make a final in 2011.
MLS could use the marketing opportunity a team achieves by winning the competition and playing a legend like Barcelona, Real Madrid, or Man U in the Club World Cup.
Wins by Seattle and LA in the semis would set up the Final with a fierce rivalry and cement their presence in MLS and around the world as important teams who play every season to win Cups.
Additionally, the all-MLS Champions League Cup final would give MLS a small boost for the beginning of its season which has started with little fanfare from a national perspective.
Having both teams advance would be outstanding for MLS, but they would settle for either LA or Seattle in the final. One team can handle the spotlight, but will that team be able to overcome the pressure of becoming the first MLS squad to win Champions and go to a Club World Championship?
See Champions League webpage for more highlights.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com
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