Liga MX is the undisputed king of the Concacaf Champions League. Since the start of the modern era of the competition, beginning in 2008, Mexican clubs have clinched each and every one of the 11 North American titles.
Will they make it 12 for 12 in 2020?
Ahead of Monday's draw for the next edition of the CCL, we’ve ranked the four Liga MX clubs by order of strength, starting with the team that enters the tournament as the least likely of the group to win it all.
#4 Cruz Azul
2019 Clausura rank (last season): 4th place (8W-3L-6D, 30 points, playoff quarterfinalist)
2019 Apertura rank (current season): 12th place (5W-5L-8D, 23 points)
CCL appearances & titles: Five previous appearances, one CCL title in 2013-14
How they qualified: 2018 Apertura runner-up
Star players: Pablo Aguilar (defender), Yoshimar Yotun (midfielder), Jonathan Rodriguez (forward), Jesus Corona (goalkeeper), Roberto Alvarado (midfielder).
Head coach: Robert Siboldi, manager since September of 2019
Playing style: 4-2-3-1? 4-3-3? 4-4-2? Likely frustrating Cruz Azul’s fans, Siboldi has tinkered with his formation and game plan since taking charge in September. Inconsistent results have followed, as have a long tally of bold and desperate shots from players like Milton Caraglio and Rodriguez.
Strengths: There’s no lack of talent in this team. Even if a few players are dropped over the winter, Siboldi’s roster would still be one of the best in Liga MX. If a couple of fresh faces are added soon — and if the manager can stick with a tactical approach — Cruz Azul could potentially sneak into the latter stages.
Weaknesses: The aforementioned inconsistency in positive results has plagued the Mexico City team in recent months. Siboldi has yet to form a coherent tactical style that will be needed in 2020. And, if you happen to believe in divine soccer intervention, Cruz Azul are widely recognized as cursed in Mexico.
CCL prospects: Will Siboldi prioritize the CCL or a return back into Liga MX’s playoff-worthy top eight? Keeping in mind that Cruz Azul have no league titles since 1997 (and that the drought partially defines them), it wouldn’t be a shock if Los Cementeros bow out in the first or second knockout round of the CCL.
Versus MLS clubs in CCL: 6W-3L-1D
2019 Clausura rank (last season): 1st place (13W-2L-2D, 41 points, playoff finalist)
2019 Apertura rank (current season): 2nd place (9W-3L-6D, 33 points, playoff quarterfinalist)
CCL appearances & titles: One previous appearance
How they qualified: 2019 Clausura runner-up
Star players: Jose Juan Macias (forward), Angel Mena (forward), Luis Montes (midfielder), Ismael Sosa (forward), Fernando Navarro (defender).
Head coach: Ignacio Ambriz, manager since September of 2018
Playing style: Plenty of goals and possession are Leon’s bread and butter. Through a proactive 4-4-2/4-2-3-1, Los Panzas Verdes regularly entertain Liga MX fans through a high-flying system that also makes them vulnerable to counters.
Strengths: It’s all about the attack. Ambriz’s style caters to the team’s numerous vertical-minded players that could catch any defense off guard. Whether it be Macias, Mena, Montes, Sosa or others, Leon also have plenty of goalscoring threats.
Weaknesses: All of this focus in the final third means that opposing teams could capitalize on open space left by Leon in defense. The Liga MX team is brilliant going forward, but it undoubtedly comes at a cost in the backline.
CCL prospects: Leon have the makings of a dark horse for the CCL title. After an eye-catching 2019 that included a top two regular-season finish in both the Clausura and Apertura, Leon is unquestionably one of the teams to keep an eye on next year.
Versus MLS clubs in CCL: 0W-0L-0D
#2 Club América
2019 Clausura rank (last season): 5th place (9W-6L-2D, 29 points, playoff semifinalist)
2019 Apertura rank (current season): 6th place (8W-3L-7D, 31 points, qualified for the playoff final)
CCL appearances & titles: Four previous appearances, two titles.
How they qualified: 2018 Apertura champion
Star players: Paul Aguilar (defender), Guido Rodriguez (midfielder), Guillermo Ochoa (goalkeeper), Giovani dos Santos (midfielder), Henry Martin (forward).
Head coach: Miguel Herrera, manager since May of 2017
Playing style: “Piojo” Herrera prefers to be on the front foot and focusing on the attack. Whether it be closer to a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2, Las Aguilas have been able to field a number of dynamic and pacey players that have helped earn a handful of high-scoring wins this season.
Strengths: Club America will only continue to get stronger in 2020. Herrera has a young core of U23 players (such as Jorge Sanchez, Nicolas Benedetti, Sebastian Cordova, Carlos Vargas and Federico Viñas) that have already made a significant impact for the squad.
Weaknesses: Injuries are arguably the biggest concern and Las Águilas have struggled with keeping a number of players healthy in recent months. Herrera’s infamous temper tantrums during matches, which have reportedly angered his bosses, shouldn’t be overlooked either.
CCL prospects: As long as he doesn’t have too many injury complications to deal with, Herrera should be able to guide his energetic and efficient roster through a deep run in the competition. Up-and-coming options like Cordova, Viñas or Sanchez could also be motivated to use it as a platform for their careers.
Versus MLS clubs in CCL: 2W-1L-3D
2019 Clausura rank (last season): 2nd place (11W-2L-4D, 37 points, playoff champion)
2019 Apertura rank (current season): 3rd place (8W-2L-8D, 32 points, playoff quarterfinalist)
CCL appearances & titles: Five previous appearances
How they qualified: 2019 Clausura champion
Star players: Andre-Pierre Gignac (forward), Nahuel Guzman (goalkeeper), Carlos Salcedo (defender), Guido Pizarro (midfielder), Lucas Zelarayan (midfielder).
Head coach: Ricardo Ferretti, manager since May of 2010
Playing style: In a rigid and organized 4-4-2/4-4-1-1, “Tuca” Ferretti’s predictably cautious style is exemplified through an enormous amount of possession and horizontal passing. On most weekends, you’ll likely see Tigres gain a low-scoring draw or narrow win.
Strengths: Pound for pound, Ferretti’s roster is arguably the best in the CONCACAF region. Tigres have an immense amount of depth that could allow them to thrive in mid-week CCL matches.
Weaknesses: The squad is also an aging one and questions are beginning to emerge regarding Ferretti. After years of dominating Liga MX, the Brazilian manager has finally started to show some faults in his decision-making in recent matches.
CCL prospects: With no international championship to compliment their Liga MX supremacy in the last decade, Tigres will be hungry for a CCL title. Looking at their intriguing roster options and the experience of a managerial powerhouse like Ferretti, Tigres will be one of the heavy favorites to lift the trophy.
Versus MLS clubs in CCL: 7W-2L-1D
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things Mexican soccer. He has covered Liga MX, the Mexican national team and Mexicans abroad for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast.