What history says about MLS teams' chances in Concacaf Champions League second legs

Mark-Anthony Kaye - LAFC - vs. Leon

The first legs of the 2020 Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 were completed Thursday night with positive road results for New York City FC and Seattle Sounders FC

That comes on the heels of road draws for Atlanta United and the Montreal Impact, with LAFC the lone MLS team to lose in the first leg of the Round of 16.

What does that mean for the prospect of advancing to the quarterfinals? 

History reflects very strongly on NYCFC and cautiously optimistic on the Sounders, Atlanta United and the Impact's chances to advance beyond the Round of 16. As for LAFC? Let's just say they have a shot to defy history.

MLS history up two goals after Leg 1

(MLS teams advanced 6 times out of 6 occasions)

NYCFC should feel confident returning home with a 5-3 win over San Carlos in the opening leg because history is on their side. Leading by two goals after the first leg has been the perfect recipe for MLS teams to advance. It's happened six times and MLS teams have advanced each time.

Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls are the most successful with both teams making deep runs in 2018 with multi-goal wins in the opening leg. The Reds beat the Colorado Rapids and Club America by two-goal results to get to the final, while the Red Bulls pulled off a historic 2-0 win at Club Tijuana in the quarterfinals. 

Interestingly, each time an MLS team reached the CCL final, they won the opening leg of the semifinals by two goals.

Results after two-goal win in Leg 1


  • Real Salt Lake 2-0 Deportivo Saprissa
  • Deportivo Saprissa 2-1 Real Salt Lake


  • Montreal Impact 2-0 LD Alajuelense
  • LD Alajuelense 4-2 Montreal Impact (Impact advance on away goals)

2018 ROUND OF 16

  • Colorado Rapids 0-2 Toronto FC
  • Toronto FC 0-0 Colorado Rapids


  • Club Tijuana 0-2 New York Red Bulls
  • New York Red Bulls 3-1 Club Tijuana


  • Toronto FC 3-1 Club America
  • Club America 1-1 Toronto FC

2019 ROUND OF 16

  • CA Pantoja 0-2 New York Red Bulls
  • New York Red Bulls 3-0 CA Pantoja

Series winner in bold

MLS teams advancing: 6-0

MLS history tied after Leg 1

(MLS teams advanced 6 out of 14 occasions)

History is most kind on MLS teams who secured a 1-1 draw in an away opening leg, as Atlanta United did against FC Motagua on Tuesday night, with one very memorable exception Montreal Impact fans may still have trouble talking about.

During a memorable run to the CCL final, Montreal appeared to get off to an ideal start with a 1-1 draw against Club America at Estadio Azteca, then took an early lead at a packed Olympic Stadium, only to succumb to Dario Benedetto's second-half hat trick and a 4-2 defeat in Leg 2 that gave Las Aguilas the title.

More recently, the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls have each advanced following Leg 1 draws on the road, Vancouver's coming in a quarterfinal against the Red Bulls in 2017. History is less kind on MLS teams who drew their opening home legs 1-1, with all three going on to lose, all against Liga MX foes.

History isn't particularly kind to teams MLS teams who earn a 2-2 draw in the opening leg, though that may be because most of those results have come with the MLS team playing at home.

Only twice before Seattle's 2-2 draw at Olimpia and Montreal's 2-2 draw at Deportivo Saprissa have teams previously scored twice in a road draw to open a two-leg series, and the Impact were involved in one of those.

The most memorable may be when Real Salt Lake became the first MLS team to reach the CCL final, gutting out a gritty result at CF Monterrey only to succumb to a 1-0 defeat at home. Then in the 2015 quarterfinals, the Impact drew Pachuca 2-2 in Mexico before advancing on away goals following a 1-1 draw in the return leg.

There's only been three 0-0 draws after the first leg — with heavy results in the second leg each time for the home team. Real Salt Lake defeated Columbus Crew SC, 4-1, at Rio Tinto Stadium in the 2011 quarterfinals. The LA Galaxy beat CD Herediano at home, 4-1, in the 2013 quarterfinals and lost at Santos Laguna, 4-0, in the 2016 quarterfinals.

Results after draw in Leg 1


  • Houston Dynamo 1-1 Atlante FC
  • Atlante FC 3-0 Houston Dynamo


  • Columbus Crew 2-2 Toluca
  • Toluca 3-2 Columbus Crew


  • Columbus Crew SC 0-0 Real Salt Lake
  • Real Salt Lake 4-1 Columbus Crew SC

2011 FINAL

  • CF Monterrey 2-2 Real Salt Lake
  • Real Salt Lake 0-1 CF Monterrey


  • Toronto FC 2-2 LA Galaxy
  • LA Galaxy 1-2 Toronto FC


  • Toronto FC 1-1 Santos Laguna
  • Santos Laguna 6-2 Toronto FC


  • CD Herediano 0-0 LA Galaxy
  • LA Galaxy 4-1 CD Herediano


  • San Jose Earthquakes 1-1 Toluca
  • Toluca 1-1 San Jose Earthquakes (5-4 pens)


  • Pachuca 2-2 Montreal Impact
  • Montreal Impact 1-1 Pachuca

2015 FINAL

  • America 1-1 Montreal Impact
  • Montreal Impact 2-4 America


  • Seattle Sounders 2-2 Club America
  • Club America 3-1 Seattle Sounders


  • LA Galaxy 0-0 Santos Laguna
  • Santos Laguna 4-0 LA Galaxy


  • New York Red Bulls 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
  • Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 New York Red Bulls

2018 ROUND OF 16

  • Olimpia 1-1 New York Red Bulls
  • New York Red Bulls 2-0 Olimpia

Series winner in bold

MLS teams advancing: 6-8

MLS history down two goals after Leg 1

(MLS teams advanced 1 time out of 7 occasions)

Getting behind by two goals after the first leg has spelled doom for MLS clubs, with only Atlanta United rallying to advance when the Five Stripes erased a 3-1 deficit against Herediano in last year's Round of 16. Every time it's been a 2-0 Leg 1 loss, an MLS team failed to advance. Five of those defeats have come against Liga MX sides, with the other when the Colorado Rapids lost to Toronto FC in the 2018 Round of 16.

D.C. United and Real Salt Lake made respectable home showings after opening their 2016 quarterfinals with away losses to Liga MX opposition. The rest of the series were mostly noncompetitive in Leg 2. But maybe that just adds to the challenge for Bob Bradley's men with LAFC?

Results after two-goal loss in Leg 1


  • Queretaro 2-0 DC United
  • DC United 1-1 Queretaro


  • Tigres UANL 2-0 Real Salt Lake
  • Real Salt Lake 1-1 Tigres UANL


  • Tigres UANL 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
  • Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 Tigres UANL

2018 ROUND OF 16

  • Colorado Rapids 0-2 Toronto FC
  • Toronto FC 0-0 Colorado Rapids

2019 ROUND OF 16

  • CD Herediano 3-1 Atlanta United
  • Atlanta United 4-0 CD Herediano


  • Houston Dynamo 0-2 Tigres UANL
  • Tigres UANL 1-0 Houston Dynamo


  • New York Red Bulls 0-2 Santos Laguna
  • Santos Laguna 4-2 New York Red Bulls

Series winner in bold

MLS teams advancing: 2-6