MLS fans will be pulling for the League this week as three teams kick off the 2012/2013 CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals (CCL).
The Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders, and LA Galaxy are set to begin their first-legs of the Quarterfinals, just six games away from advancing to the FIFA Club World Cup. Standing in their way are three teams from Mexico, and one each from Guatemala and Costa Rica.
"I think the opportunity for an MLS team to win the Champions League in this region and go to the World Club Championship to compete against some of the best clubs in the world is an important goal," MLS Commissioner Don Garber told reporters in Seattle over the weekend.
Four teams from the U.S. qualify to the regional club championships: the MLS Cup winners and runners-up, U.S. Open Cup winners and Supporters’ Shield winners. In the case one team wins multiple titles, the team (s) with the next best record in regular season play will participate. Since the CCL begins before the MLS regular season ends, the U.S. entries are determined in the previous year.
The remaining MLS sides won their three-team groups last fall to advance to the Quarterfinals, with only Real Salt Lake bowing out.
Since the current version of the Champions League began in 2009-2010, seven of the eight finalists have been from Mexico. RSL was the sole outsider when they pushed Monterrey to the limit in the 2010-11 Final. The Colorado Rapids participated in the 2011-2012 CCL but failed to advance from group play.
Houston is the first to start when they face Mexico's Santos Laguna on Tuesday, March 5. The Seattle Sounders will play Tigres UANL in Mexico on Wednesday, and the LA Galaxy will kick off their quarterfinal leg against Herediano in Costa Rica. The only quarterfinal series not featuring an MLS side will see defending champions Monterrey face Guatemalan side Xelajú.
The quarterfinal winners will advance to the semifinals, set for April 2-4 and April 9-11. The LA-Herediano winner will face the Monterrey-Xelajú winner, while the Seattle-Tigres winner will face either Santos or Houston. The two-legged final is set for April 24 and May 1.
First Leg (on Fox Soccer)
- Tues., 3/5, 8 pm ET: Houston Dynamo vs. Santos Laguna (MEX)
- Weds., 3/6, 10 pm ET: Tigres UANL (MEX) vs. Seattle Sounders
- Thurs., 3/7, 8 pm ET: Herediano (CRC) vs. LA Galaxy
- Tues., 3/12, 10 pm ET: Seattle Sounders vs. Tigres UANL
- Weds., 3/13, 8 pm ET: Santos Laguna vs. Houston Dynamo
- Weds., 3/13, 10 pm ET: LA Galaxy vs. Herediano