Concacaf Champions League is the final frontier for Major League Soccer.
CCL invites the top clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean to square off for regional supremacy in a thrilling knockout format. The winner of the tournament not only gets the trophy, prize money and bragging rights, they also earn a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup, where they take on the best teams from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.
“To win this would be absolutely massive,” said former Sounders FC team captain Brad Evans. “Arguably it would be the biggest trophy the club has ever won. We talk about our trophy case and what it’s done for the club to push it to the next level. To add that would take this club to a different stratosphere.”
Over the years, the Sounders’ involvement in CCL has led to some of the most iconic moments in club history, with Djimi Traore’s goal against Tigres in 2013, the historic road win over Monterrey in 2011 and the late victory over C.D. Olimpia in 2015 at the top of the list.
Even though no MLS team has ever won CCL, it’s already been a massive catalyst for growth in the league.
CCL serves as a platform for players throughout the region as they attempt to break into MLS. Young, talented prospects coming through the ranks at clubs in Central America or the Caribbean can earn transfers to MLS sides by impressing in the tournament.
“It’s a showcase,” said Evans. “To be able to see if a player can make it in MLS, it’s far easier for us to judge talent when we’re watching a guy play against us, or even watching them play against other [MLS teams].”
Further up the food chain, the constant exposure of Major League Soccer’s quality on and off the pitch to Liga MX has led to an influx of top players from Mexico’s first division moving stateside. That trend has already benefited the Sounders, as the club’s back-to-back Golden Boot winner, Raúl Ruidíaz, had established himself as a lethal striker for Morelia before joining Seattle.
“In my opinion, [CCL] has been the catalyst to the movement of Liga MX players coming to MLS,” noted Evans. “Without this tournament, I don’t think we’re at where we are now in terms of quality and getting those players to our league. I think in the next three, four, five years, you’ll see an MLS team win this tournament. That will be the biggest shift in this region, and when that happens, you’ll see just an influx of top talent.”
Above all else, CCL is an opportunity for the entire Sounders community to rally around the players as they seek to establish themselves as the top club in the region.
“We all collectively – fans, players and the front office – want to see our club grow,” said Evans. “If we want to see it on the world stage, we have to pack our house. And when we do that, it creates an incredible brand to push throughout the world. If we want more top players in the world to come here, we have to show it.”
Over the past decade, the Concacaf Champions League has been an integral factor in the meteoric rise of Major League Soccer. Everyone in the Sounders organization, from GM & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey to Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, has stated that winning the tournament is a priority for the club, with a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup as the ultimate prize.
“Imagine the Sounders brand being able to play the top clubs in the world at center stage,” said Evans. “It would be amazing.”