Liga MX, again: MLS must go through Pumas to win 2022 CCL title 

UPDATE: Seattle Sounders FC beat New York City FC by a 4-2 aggregate scoreline on Wednesday evening, booking a two-legged championship series with Pumas UNAM. The first leg will be in Mexico City, while the second leg will be in Seattle.

ORIGINAL: The path toward Concacaf Champions League glory, for either New York City FC or Seattle Sounders FC, runs through a Liga MX side in 2022.

Pumas UNAM booked a spot in this year’s CCL final on Tuesday night, drawing fellow Mexican club Cruz Azul, 0-0, to win their semifinal series on aggregate. They had won the first leg, 2-1, last week behind a brace from Argentine striker Juan Ignacio Dinenno, who is the regional competition’s top goalscorer with seven strikes.

Heading into Leg 2 of the other semifinal series, Seattle hold a 3-1 aggregate lead after a home victory last week. They’ll meet Wednesday evening at Red Bull Arena (9 pm ET | FS1, TUDN) to decide which MLS club meets a Liga MX counterpart.

This year's CCL final will be played across two legs in late April and early May (dates to be determined). No MLS team has ever won CCL's modern iteration.

Final hosting scenarios

The result means Leg 1 of the CCL final will be played in Mexico City at Estadio Olímpico Universitario, with results in earlier rounds of the competition (wins, draws and, if required, goal difference) determining hosting priority.

That leaves Leg 2 at an MLS venue, and Tuesday’s 0-0 draw between Pumas and Cruz Azul ensures that Seattle will host Leg 2 of the final if they either:

  1. Beat NYCFC
  2. Draw NYCFC
  3. Lose at NYCFC but advance on penalty kicks

For NYCFC to host Leg 2 of the final, they must:

  1. Beat Seattle via aggregate or penalty kicks

Scouting Pumas

To reach the CCL final, Pumas beat Costa Rica’s Saprissa 6-3 on aggregate in the Round of 16 before dispatching 2021 MLS Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution in the quarterfinals. Both New England and Pumas won their home legs 3-0, then head coach Andrés Lillini’s team advanced on penalty kicks.

Pumas last made a CCL final in 2005, though lost to Sarpissa when the tournament was known as the Champions' Cup. That marked the last time a non-Liga MX team won the competition, with MLS teams losing in the final during the 2011 (Real Salt Lake), 2015 (CF Montréal), 2018 (Toronto FC) and 2020 (LAFC) editions.

During the Champions' Cup era, Pumas won on three occasions: 1980, 1982 and 1989.

As of writing, Pumas are in 10th place in the Liga MX Clausura campaign. Their squad is anchored by Dinenno and Mexican international goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, plus features former Real Salt Lake homegrown and US youth international winger Sebastián Saucedo.