Monday’s soccer news starts with Major League Soccer looking to see if their run of form continues in the Concacaf Champions League. Unfortunately, at least one MLS team will exit in the quarterfinals. There’s an MLS team in every quarterfinal matchup. Putting five teams through to this round means Atlanta plays Philadelphia on Tuesday (8pm ET – FS1). Also on Tuesday is Toronto vs Cruz Azul, step two in TFC’s run of the gauntlet against Liga MX teams.
“We know we’re up against a really big opponent, a really big team in Mexico, a team that is doing very well in the league,” Toronto’s Jonathan Osorio said following the draw against Vancouver on Saturday. “It’s going to be a tough match, but that’s something this club is always up for. This competition puts out great games and great quality and you’re against the best in the continent. As a player that’s the kind of games that you want to be a part of, so easy.”
MLS having one guaranteed spot in the semifinals isn’t enough after what we saw in the round of 16. Yes, the other three games are against Liga MX clubs, but Toronto already showed why that may no longer matter. Whether that’s just the oddity of this season with the lack of large partisan crowds and the pandemic precautions can certainly wait for an answer. MLS clubs vs 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the Liga MX table is an obvious opportunity. The first step is keeping things competitive for the second-leg.
It’s easy enough to talk about MLS wins in this situation. It’s the league as a whole that could use a spot in the Club World Cup, finally shaking off the Liga MX dominance. Still, this tournament is already the story of individual clubs. With MLS now in season, that turns toward balancing the Champions League with regular season MLS games. That increases the level of difficulty, especially given the history of teams trying to balance their focus.
Minus that trophy, no MLS team has shown they can get that right in the modern Champions League era. Several have come close enough without muddling through the early going of their MLS seasons. It’s that familiar risk/reward scenario that tends to end up with an MLS team almost lifting the Champions League trophy.
With MLS now determined to have the Leagues Cup matter, it’s a situation where achieving in MLS means competing across more than one competition. That may or may not include the US Open Cup in 2021, but the message moving forward is clear. The league may still count more, but there are multiple measures of success. MLS teams in five out of eight quarterfinal slots underlines that for this season’s Champions League.
Also in the soccer news, Detroit City is the 2021 National Independent Soccer Association’s Legends Cup winners, shutting out hosts Chattanooga 3-0 on Sunday night. Detroit’s Matthew Lewis opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a Max Todd penalty doubling the lead in the 34th. Kevin Venegas made it 3-0 in the 90th with Nathan Steinwascher keeping the clean sheet. The NISA spring season begins on May 1.
DW’s Jonathan Harding with another take on what can help soccer. The Wall St Journal’s Joshua Robinson with the continued fallout from The Super League. The Observer collected the fan response across the Premier League. Soccer America’s Paul Kennedy with a big picture issue for establishing American pro soccer.
Incredible to see our fans again! This one is for all of you 💙🏆 pic.twitter.com/ALcuPT8sop
— Zack Steffen (@zacksteffen_) April 25, 2021
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Photo by Katie Gillen – Atlanta United