When LAFC take on Tigres UANL in the Concacaf Champions League final Tuesday night (10 pm ET | FS2, TUDN), they’ll not only be chasing a first international trophy in the club’s young history, but also the first-ever for an MLS club in the CCL.
While paying due respect to D.C. United and LA Galaxy, who both won the competition in its previous guise as the Concacaf Champions' Cup, LAFC are just the fourth MLS team to reach the final since the competition was reformatted as the Champions League in 2008. Here’s a look back at how Real Salt Lake, the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC reached the CCL final and what happened when they got there.
Real Salt Lake (2011)
Real Salt Lake didn’t lift the trophy in 2011, but they still made a lot of history with their title-chasing run. The Claret-and-Cobalt became the first MLS (and American) team to reach the final of the rebranded, redesigned competition as well as the first team outside of Mexico to play in the championship match.
Unlike the current iteration, RSL had to navigate the group stage before three, two-legged knockout rounds.
RSL topped their four-team group, which included Cruz Azul, Toronto FC and Panama’s Arabe Unido. They defeated La Maquina at Rio Tinto Stadium 3-1 on the sixth and final match night of the group stage.
A 4-1 second-leg win over Columbus Crew SC in the second leg of the quarterfinals sent RSL to the semifinals against Deportivo Saprissa. More success at RioT – this time a tidy 2-0 win – set Jason Kreis’ side up. A Jamison Olave second-half goal proved to be the difference in a 3-2 aggregate win.
RSL then went punch for punch with Monterrey in a thrilling opening leg of the final at Estadio Tecnologico. A late equalizer from Javier Morales gave the visitors two critical away goals to bring back to Sandy.
With continental silverware within reach, Humberto Suazo struck just before halftime for the lone goal of the second leg, resulting in Monterrey’s trophy lift.
Montreal Impact (2015)
The Montreal Impact also made history in 2015 by becoming the first Canadian club to play in the final.
The Impact then bossed their three-team group, which included the New York Red Bulls and FAS from El Salvador, via three wins and a draw to reach the knockout round. That’s where the real fireworks kicked off.
A Dilly Duka brace helped secure a 2-2 draw against Pachuca in the first leg of the quarterfinals. The sides exchanged late goals at Stade Olympique in the second leg, with Cameron Porter scoring in the third minute of second-half stoppage time in a 3-3 aggregate win. The Impact advanced on away goals.
Ignacio Piatti and Victor Cabrera scored five minutes apart early in the first leg of the semifinal tie against Alajuelense. Montreal fell in Costa Rica in the second leg, but again prevailed on away goals thanks to tallies in each half by Jack McInerney and Andres Romero.
Montreal again got a crucial away goal courtesy of an early Piatti strike in a 1-1 draw with Club America at Estadio Azteca. Romero then scored in the 8th minute back in Montreal to give the Impact true belief, but those dreams were dashed by a Dario Benedetto second-half hat trick as Las Aguilas won 5-3 on aggregate.
Toronto FC (2018)
The most recent final appearance, and closest MLS came to CCL glory, occurred in 2018 when Toronto FC lost to Chivas Guadalajara on penalty kicks in the two-legged final.
Coming off a historic treble-winning season, Toronto FC had real hope of making CCL history in this current iteration of the competition.
A comfortable 2-0 win in the Round of 16 over the Colorado Rapids set up an action-packed quarterfinal tie against Tigres UANL. A spectacular Jonathan Osorio goal one minute from full time gave Toronto FC a 2-1 first-leg win at BMO Field.
Andre-Pierre Gignac struck for a late brace in the second leg at Estadio Universitario, but an own goal by Rafael Caricola and a stunning Sebastian Giovinco strike nine minutes later gave TFC the away goals needed after the aggregate series ended level at 4-4.
Giovinco set the tone in the opening leg of the semifinals with a penalty kick against Miguel Herrera’s Club America. Jozy Altidore and Ashtone Morgan added goals in a 3-1 first-leg win marred by a halftime tunnel altercation between the teams. There were post-match accusations from Herrara that Toronto police assaulted three of his players.
The second leg was a bit more tame, with Osorio’s 12th-minute goal essentially putting America away as Toronto FC advanced to the final 4-2 on aggregate.
Matias Almeyda’s Chivas Guadalajara, who knocked off the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls, were now standing between Toronto FC and history.
Chivas struck first at BMO with goals by future MLS stars Rodolfo Pizarro and Alan Pulido securing a 2-1 road win. The odds were against TFC to get a result at Estadio Akron, but that’s just what they did when Altidore and Giovinco scored after Orbelin Pineda gave the hosts an early lead.
The title would be decided by penalty kicks and Chivas claimed a 4-2 shootout win.