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How many times have teams overcome a first-leg deficit to win the Concacaf Champions League?

The incredible statistics that suggest Club Léon are odds-on to complete the job against LAFC after winning the first leg in Mexico.

The incredible statistics that suggest Club Léon are odds-on to complete the job against LAFC after winning the first leg in Mexico.
Luis RamírezEFE

There was a slight feeling of regret for Club León despite their 2-1 victory in the first leg of the 2023 Concacaf Champions League final against Carlos Vela’s Los Angeles FC. The Liga MX side were worthy winners at Estadio León but will be disappointed not to have won by a bigger margin ahead of Sunday’s decider at BMO Stadium, especially after Dénis Bouanga’s injury-time strike for the MLS team.

A first-leg win the key to Concachampions glory

A look into the history books, however, suggests that they needn’t be too worried. Since the inaugural edition of the tournament was played all the way back in 1962, 37 two-legged finals have been played and on only two occasions has a team that has won the first leg not gone on to lift the trophy.

Alianza vs Jong Colombia, 1968

In the 1967 edition, the final of which was actually played in March 1968, Salvadoran club Alianza lifted the trophy despite starting the final with 2-1 defeat to Jong Colombia of Curaçao. But the eventual winners were made to work rather harder than they would be nowadays. Alianza triumphed 3-0 in the second leg but the teams were forced to play a deciding third match, which the Salvadorans won 5-3, due to the Champions’ Cup’s NBA Playoff-style series format at the time.

Pachuca vs Cruz Azul, 2010

The other instance is much more recent, with Pachuca emerging victorious in an all-Mexican affair against Cruz Azul in 2010…but only just. La Máquina put themselves in the driving seat in the tie with a 2-1 win at Estadio Azul, their former home ground. However, Los Tuzos ended up on the winning side in the most dramatic fashion possible. Paraguayan attacker Édgar Benítez netted the only goal of the second leg with almost the last kick of the game, which gave Pachuca their fourth continental title on away goals.

Second-leg winners and losers

In the remaining 35 two-legged finals, on only four other occasions have the team who lost the first leg gone on to win the second: Olimpia (Honduras) against Defence Force (Trinidad and Tobago in 1985, Pumas against Saprissa (Costa Rica) in 2005, Santos Laguna against Monterrey in 2012 and Toronto FC against Guadalajara in 2018. However, on those occasions, they were unable to overturn their first-leg deficits.

How is the Concacaf Champions League final decided in the event of a tie?

Given that León hold only a slender lead, it’s entirely possible that LAFC could win by a one-goal margin on Sunday. If that it the case and the teams end up tied, the current format means that away goals will not be used as a tie-breaker, unlike in earlier rounds. Two 15 minute-periods of extra time will be played, with a penalty shootout following if they still cannot be separated.


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