CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Why LAFC are favourites to win the Concacaf Champions League against Club León
Carlos Vela leads MLS’ LAFC against Liga MX side León and will hope to make amends for the 2020 final defeat to Tigres.
The United States against Mexico has developed into one of the biggest rivalries in world soccer, both at international and club level. For the third time in four years, teams from the two nations will face off in the Concacaf Champions League final. 12 months after Seattle Sounders comfortably saw off Pumas at Lumen Field, Club Léon will be looking to tip the balance back in Mexico’s favour by defeating LAFC.
When and where will the 2023 Conacaf Champions League final be held?
As has been the case since 2003 (with the exception of the covid-19 affected 2020 final), the tie will be played over two legs, with the first taking place at Estadio León on Wednesday 31 May. Four days later, on Sunday 4 June, BMO Stadium in Los Angeles will host the deciding leg. Heading into the clash, a number of factors would appear to suggest that it is Carlos Vela and his teammates that will be celebrating come the weekend.
Why are LAFC favourites?
León’s recent inactivity and poor form
Nicolás Larcamón’s side could only finish in sixth place in the Liga MX Clausura 2023 league phase, which led to them taking part in the reclassification/repechaje playoffs. However, they failed to make the playoffs proper after losing 3-1 at home to Atlético San Luis on Sunday 7 May, more than three weeks ago.
The Black and Gold, on the other hand, have played five matches since then, two of which came in the US Open Cup, which allowed boss Steve Cherundolo to rest players ahead of the final. The perfect blend, you could argue.
Second leg in Los Angeles
The fact that LAFC are scheduled to host the second leg should give them a significant advantage. The MLS Cup winners have a superb record at BMO Stadium, losing just seven of their last 55 competitive home matches going back to 2020. When they were beaten by Tigres in the final of that year’s edition of the Concacaf Champions League, a one-off match was played at a neutral venue behind closed doors due to the pandemic.
In-form star players
If you were to pick a best XI from both rosters, there would likely be a number of LAFC players that would be impossible to leave out. Captain Vela would be the most obvious pick, Ilie Sánchez has become the lynchpin of the Black and Gold midfield, Jesús Murillo is a rock at the back, while Denis Bouanga has been a revelation since joining from French side Saint-Étienne. The Gabon international is the top scorer in this season’s competition with six goals.
Several León stars would, of course, also make it in, although it’s perhaps slightly less clear-cut as to who, especially after their underwhelming performance in Liga MX’s Clausura 2023 tournament.