PREVIEW: Seattle Sounders, Pumas set for leg 1 of Concacaf Champions League final
Leg 1 of the 2022 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League final goes tonight, as Pumas UNAM host the Seattle Sounders at Estadio Olimpico Universitario in Mexico City (Catch the match live right here on OneSoccer at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT, CANADA ONLY).
In this latest meeting of Liga MX and MLS, both sides will look to chase history in this final, paving the way for another big match between the pair of leagues.
¡JUEGAZO EN CU! 🏆 Esta noche @PumasMX será anfitrión ante @SoundersFC en la primera parte de esta fiesta futbolera. ¿Cuál es tu pronóstico?— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) April 27, 2022
Gran Final #SCCL22 | Ida
🐾𝙑𝙎🟢 - @ScotiabankFC
🏟️ Olímpico Universitario
🕘 10:30 pm ET pic.twitter.com/GlJTuwLcuS
On one side, there’s a hungry Seattle team, eager to put years of MLS failure in this competition behind them.
Given that no MLS team has won this competition under the Champions League umbrella (which has only existed since 2009 after Concacaf rebranded from the Champions Cup), the Sounders will hope to represent their league well over these final two legs.
MLS clubs have made the final just four out of 13 times since 2009, falling each time in dramatic fashion; it feels like this Sounders side might be the league's best shot yet at breaking that Mexican dominance, having been one of the most consistent clubs in MLS over the last decade-plus.
On the other side, however? This Pumas team will look to continue to carry the torch for Mexican outfits in this competition, finding a way to etch out a victory – and, certainly, avoiding the stigma of becoming the team that gave MLS their first title.
Historically, they might not be the big Champions League powerhouse that some of Mexico’s other teams are, but they do have some history in the Champions Cup, and are one of the more decorated sides in Mexico domestically.
So ahead of this first leg of the final, here’s a look at both team’s journeys up until this big occasion, and what winning this competition would represent for them, their fans... and, ultimately, the leagues they play in.
Pumas navigates rocky road to final
Surprisingly, given their history, this is just Pumas’s first visit to the Concacaf Champions League final. They do have a history of success in the Champions Cup, to be fair, having made that final four times (winning three). But since the rebrand, Pumas have been yet to find similar success continentally.
This year, however, that changed.
Having earned their spot in this edition of the tournament as a virtue of being runner-up in the 2020 Liga MX tournament, this marked their first participation in the Champions League since 2017, and just fifth overall since the rebrand 13 years ago.
But despite that history, they quickly threw that out of the window, storming out of the gates with an entertaining 6-3 win over Costa Rica’s Saprissa in the round of 16, showing that they weren’t here to mess around.
Then, they had their Champions League defining moment in the quarter-finals, when they took on MLS’s New England Revolution, who having qualified as 2021 Supporters Shield winners, entered this competition as one of the favourites. Which considering that they then went up 3-0 at home in the first leg, really left Pumas wobbling as they headed back to Mexico for the second leg.
There, however, they had the comeback of the tournament, winning 3-0 at home, sending the tie to a penalty shootout, where they triumphed over New England on penalty kicks to send them to the semi-finals.
And after that, they took care of business efficiently and ruthlessly in those semis, dispatching fellow Mexican side Cruz Azul 2-1 on aggregate, leading them to this final.
So as they get set for this final, that makes them early favourites here for a reason. Not only have they had to take down three very solid teams to get here, but did so in style each round, showing different layers to their game in each one.
Rumbo a la gran final 🛣️ Repasemos la trayectoria de @PumasMX antes de instalarse en el juego por el campeonato de la #SCCL22 🏆 ¿Cuál es tu pronóstico para la final de ida ante @SoundersFC este miércoles?— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) April 25, 2022
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Win big? They did that in the first round. Come from behind? They did that in the quarter-finals. Win a tight and defensive tie? Just look at the semi-finals.
As a result, look for them to continue their dream run with a big win in the finals, giving them that first Champions League title to add to their list of Champions Cup and Liga MX triumphs, while continuing Mexico’s dominance in this competition.
Seattle takes care of business to get to final:
Despite their storied history as a club, having won two MLS Cups, a Supporters Shield and four US Open Cups, this is also the Sounders first appearance in a Champions League final.
But much as they’ve found a way to become one of the standard-bearers in MLS this past decade, the Sounders also found a new gear in the Champions League this year, going on a very solid run.
Qualifying for this tournament as the best-ranked MLS side who didn’t already qualify by either winning MLS Cup, the Supporters Shield or conference-winner, an avenue only in place given the cancellation of the US Open Cup, the Sounders have made the most of that chance given to them.
To kick things off, they dispatched Honduran side, Motagua, quite easily in the round of 16, winning 5-0 on aggregate. Then, in similarly dominant fashion, they then bested Liga MX’s Leon 4-1 in the quarter-finals, leading them to a semi-final date with fellow MLS side, and defending MLS Cup champions, New York City FC.
There, they then did what they did in the prior two rounds - they picked up a very convincing win, this time 4-2 on aggregate, allowing them to qualify for that first final. Not only that, but they did so in pretty dominant fashion, too, winning every tie by multiple goals.
Road to the Final🚦Relive @soundersfc’s #SCCL22 run ahead of this week’s leg 1 matchup against @pumasmx 🏆 What are your predictions for the final?— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) April 25, 2022
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While it may feel like Pumas are favourites for this final given Liga MX’s history in this competition, if there is a team that can challenge that, it’s this Sounders side.
As seen with their run here, they look like a team that wants to change history, finally becoming that first MLS side to lift the Champions League trophy (and qualify for the Club World Cup).
It won’t be easy, of course, and they wouldn’t be the first MLS team to fall short despite it finally seeming like ‘their year’, but they’ll look to put that all behind them in this ‘big f’ing final’, allowing them to add another trophy to their ever-growing cabinet.
The first leg of Pumas vs. Seattle in Mexico City goes tonight on OneSoccer at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT. The second leg, which is in Seattle, goes on May 4th at 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT, also on OneSoccer.