Atlanta United: Campeones Cup winners, but what is it worth?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 14: Atlanta United celebrates winning the Campeones Cup 3-2 between Club America and Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 14, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 14: Atlanta United celebrates winning the Campeones Cup 3-2 between Club America and Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 14, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Atlanta United defeated Club America 3-2 on Wednesday night in the second edition of the Campeones Cup. But what is the worth of that victory?

On Wednesday night, at a packed-out Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta United beat Club America 3-2 in a very back-and-forth affair. The Five Stripes emerged as victors in the second-ever edition of the Campeones Cup, which pits the MLS Cup winner and Campeon de Campeones winner from Liga MX in a one-off final for North American dominance. Tigres defeated Toronto FC in the inaugural match last season by a score of 3-1.

Atlanta United scored early on a beautiful passing sequence that resulted in an Emerson Hyndman finish to put the home side ahead. Club America answered just minutes later with a Renato Ibarra finish into the upper netting. Then Josef Martinez failed to convert just his second penalty of the year shortly before half-time and the teams entered the locker room even at 1-1.

Club America scored their second goal in the 57th minute to take the lead from Atlanta, but that lead didn’t last long. Just two minutes later, the ball fell to Atlanta’s Jeff Larentowicz, who stepped up and hit a rocket into the opposite corner of the goal. That was the turning point in the match, as Atlanta never took their foot off the gas the rest of the way.

Just minutes later, in the 65th minute, Florentin Pogba drew a penalty and Martinez stepped up to redeem himself from his earlier miss. Atlanta took the lead, 3-2, and after Club America saw Bruno Valdez sent off, the Five Stripes cruised to the final whistle.

This win saw the Five Stripes hoist their second trophy in nine months. While that trophy counts as silverware for the cabinet, there will be those that wonder what it is actually worth. It is no secret that MLS began this competition as a cash grab. The final is also a measuring stick between Liga MX and MLS, although one could argue it’s much less of a measuring stick than CCL or even the new Leagues Cup given the small sample size.

The Campeones Cup is another trophy for Atlanta United, which should not be overlooked. The club secured its first piece of silverware last December when it beat Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup final. The Five Stripes then missed out on their next trophy when they bounced out of the CONCACAF Champions League in March. This time, they took advantage.

It is no small feat for an MLS club to win multiple pieces of silverware within the span of a year. In fact, Atlanta will play for another trophy in less than two weeks time when they host Minnesota United in the U.S. Open Cup final. If Atlanta United win that, they will have earned two trophies in a span of 13 days and three trophies in the span of ten months. Looking even further ahead, with the change in MLS Cup Playoff scheduling, they could theoretically earn a third trophy in November for a grand total of four in a year.

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Because of Atlanta’s opportunities to earn more trophies this season, that increases the value of the Campeones Cup. By itself, the Campeones Cup might be a low-valued competition, but in the context of other silverware, it is somewhat impressive for an MLS club to amass so many accomplishments.

Club America’s desire to win the Campeones Cup also brings worth to Atlanta’s win. Club America rolled out a strong starting XI and fought hard all night. Players celebrated when their goalkeeper, Oscar Jimenez, saved Martinez’s first penalty attempt. Valdez’s red card also showed Club America’s intense desire to win, as he pulled down Martinez who had broken away from America’s defense.

Atlanta’s win marks another milestone for MLS: it is the first time an MLS club has won a trophy over a Liga MX side since D.C. United beat Toluca in 1998, and it’s the first time an MLS club has won an international trophy since LA Galaxy did so in 2000.  In the context of MLS’ international success, then, this triumph is not insignificant.

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Ultimately, time will tell if the Campeones Cup is worth fighting for. For now, though, Atlanta’s and Club America’s desire to win showed that the Cup was worth winning. If every team that competes in this final brings the same intensity each year, the Campeones Cup will be valued as highly as CCL or any other trophy an MLS club can attain.