Tonight, Real Salt Lake begins it's attempt to become the first team since the 2000 LA Galaxy to win the CONCACAF Champions' League/Cup. A US team has made the finals for the first time since the format changed for the 2008-2009 season. The first even since LA's run to the finals in 2000, when the entire tournament was hosted in Los Angeles. Winning the home and home series against Monterrey would make Salt Lake the third US team to lift the title after the 2000 Galaxy and 1998 DC United team.
Winning this series with Monterrey would put them in limited company when it comes to MLS teams winning a series against a Mexican side. In fact only once has an MLS side won a home and home series with a Mexican team. That was the 2002 Kansas City Wizards who won their quarterfinals series with Santos Laguna 3-2 on aggregate.
KC qualified for the quarterfinals after defeating W. Connection of Trinidad 3-0 on aggregate, winning away 1-0 on a Francisco Gomez goal and 2-0 at home thanks to goals by Mike Burns and Preki.
In the first leg down in Mexico, the Wizards lost 2-1 to Santos. Santos' two goals came from future Chivas USA player, Eduardo Lillingston. KC picked up a very important goal in the 81st minute, when Gary Glasgow scored off an assist from Gomez to make it 2-1. With the way that RSL has played at home the past two years, this would be a result that while they wouldn't be thrilled about, they'd take. No MLS team, as of yet, has won a game down in Mexico, Houston, DC, and Toronto have all gotten draws south of the border. In the group stages of this year's competition, it looked like RSL would be the ones to break it, but they suffered a heart breaking 5-4 loss to Cruz Azul.
In the second leg back at Arrowhead, Kansas City pulled out a 2-0 win over Santos to book themselves a spot in the semifinals. A first half goal by Carey Talley evened the aggregate score (there was no away goal rule in the competition at this time as the 2005 cup showed for KC fans), and then in the 71st minute, Chris Brown scored the series winner off of an assist from Preki. KC moved on to the semifinals where they loss on aggregate 7-2 to Monarcas Morelia.
But the Salt Lake series is much bigger than KC's was at the time and the MLS teams in the competition are certainly taking the competition more seriously now. Good luck to Salt Lake in their series, hopefully they can join KC as MLS sides that have won home and home series against Mexican teams.