Tonight is the opening night of the 2022 Concacaf Champions League. Major League Soccer has five clubs in the field and will look to finally win this competition and earn a spot in the Club World Cup. This is the biggest on-field hurdle for MLS to climb right now. The biggest thing keeping the league behind Liga MX in the perception gap are these Champions League and Leagues Cup competitions. An MLS team has yet to beat a Liga MX team for a continental championship.
We've gotten close. Toronto FC lost on penalties. Montreal, RSL and LAFC all made runs to the final. Plenty of teams have made semifinal runs. But nobody's ever crested the final hill of CCL. "Freespace is disappointment" as it were.
But an MLS team will win the Concacaf Champions League. And it's going to happen soon.
I won't book it for this year, but there are some very strong contenders. New York City FC have a deep, well built squad that's mostly the same from last season's succesful playoff run. The Seattle Sounders are also a deep squad, absolutely loaded with elite talent. The New England Revolution are another extremely talented team that have the pieces to win continentally. Colorado and Montreal are also teams that exist.
Even if none of those teams can conquer Liga MX -- though it's an unusually weak crop of Liga MX sides -- the breakthrough is coming. MLS is growing too rapidly to stay behind Mexico forever. Academies are churning out tons of quality players, spending has increased exponentially across the league and the facilities and coaching are making these players better than ever before.
Sometime soon, the paradigm will shift in MLS's favor. At the bottom, it might've already shifted. More clubs in MLS like Orlando City, and to a lesser extent Houston, who are smaller clubs, are getting serious financial investment. Every team in Major League Soccer either has the financial capital or front office knowledge to build high-caliber rosters. That level of investment and stability league-wide raises MLS's floor significantly, allowing it, as a whole, to rise above Liga MX, even if the top clubs aren't as good. To be fair, Liga MX is also a very balanced division with quite a bit of parity, even if there's serious gaps between the big time spenders and everyone else financially.
Tonight, New York City FC and CF Montreal will play huge continental fixtures. It'll be their first games of the season. Later this week, New England, Seattle and Colorado will do the same. No matter what happens with these five, Major League Soccer is going to win this competition. And once it does, there's no going back.