The five MLS teams now know who they will face in the Round Of 16 of the CONCACAF Champions League. Here, we analyze each tie, providing predictions for who will qualify.
The CONCACAF Champions League Draw happened on Monday, December 9th. For the five Major League Soccer teams that enter the competition, it was a mixed bag. Some face arguably the best teams in the competition; others were handed a kinder draw that offers them a chance to make some headway.
Infamously, an MLS team is yet to win the CCL. Could this be the year? Well, if it is to be, they will have to make their way past the first round. Here is who the five MLS teams will face in the Round of 16 and a prediction as to how they may fare.
Atlanta United vs. Motagua
This is tough to predict because Motagua is one of the best teams at home during the CONCACAF League and in the Honduran domestic league. However, Atlanta United are the superior team and also have a strong home advantage. Atlanta should win, but it might well go to the latter stages of the second leg and even penalties.
Am I being too in favor of Motagua? Perhaps, but consider these reasons: Atlanta haven’t played a match since Halloween after being eliminated by Toronto in the playoffs; Motagua lost only one match at home in the CONCACAF League, that being a 1-0 defeat to Saprissa, who are also in the CCL. The Five Stripes are the favorites, yes, but this will be tight.
Los Angeles FC vs. Club Leon
This is the tie of the round. Los Angeles FC are the best team in MLS, while Club Leon are the most exciting team from Liga MX, and could stake a claim to being the best, too. One problem for Leon is their current form. Have they peaked too early? They did lose to Monarcas Morelia in the Apertura quarter-finals.
LAFC, meanwhile, had the best regular season in MLS history and will be looking to make history in their first CCL ventures. Club Leon are the favorites, but LAFC are the most dangerous MLS team and they will give the Liga MX side a challenge. In fact, they might just win.
New York City FC vs. A.D. San Carlos
This iteration of A.D. San Carlos is not the same as the one that won the Costa Rican first division crown in Clausura 2019. They are currently rebuilding their squad with eight departures announced after their defeat in their playoffs with investment yet to provide sufficient replacements. Moreover, San Carlos will have to play in the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in Alajuela city (Alajuelense’s home stadium) instead of their home stadium.
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Meanwhile, New York City FC do not have a head coach and are not the most convincing in must-win games. Nevertheless, even if it goes against my gut, I believe that NYCFC will qualify for the quarter-finals.
Seattle Sounders vs. Olimpia
The Seattle Sounders are the MLS Cup winners, an ideally-suited team to knockout football with their counter-attacking style, and have lost just twice with Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro in the team. They are comfortably the favorites to overcoming Honduran Apertura champions, Olimpia. And yet, there is a niggling doubt that this might be the big MLS upset that seemingly happens every year.
The Sounders are slow starters and must deal with an extended offseason. They might not be fully sharp. Meanwhile, Olimpia are excellent at home domestically and will be hosting their first international match since there was a ban on all supporters when Olimpia fans rioted against Motagua supporters in August 2019. There will be a raucous atmosphere in Olimpia. If the Sounders are not ready, they will be found out.
Montreal Impact vs. Saprissa
The Montreal Impact are unquestionably the weakest MLS team in the CCL. So, you would expect them to struggle, right? Only, they were handed arguably the kindest draw of the first round and have a strange romanticism with the competition that seems to serve them well, especially if Ignacio Piatti turns up as he is known to do.
Saprissa, meanwhile, will bolster their squad this winter, especially at the goalkeeper position, which currently sees their back-up as their starter, and having lost their best player, Randall Leal, to Nashville SC. Two underwhelming teams against one another. Anything really could happen, but I expect Montreal’s experience to squeak this one out.