Last ones standing: Sporting carry the MLS torch into Champions League Semifinas

Among Major League Soccer’s five representatives in the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, Sporting Kansas City are the last ones standing.

That much was confirmed Thursday night when Manager Peter Vermes’ men secured a pulsating 3-0 win over Panamanian side Independiente at drizzly Children’s Mercy Park, overturning a 2-1 deficit to claim a 4-2 aggregate victory in the Champions League Quarterfinals.

The semifinal field of North America’s premier club tournament is now set, and Sporting find themselves in the company of three Liga MX outfits that brushed aside MLS opponents in the quarterfinal stage.

Those three are Mexican heavyweights Santos Laguna, Tigres UANL and Sporting’s opponent in next month’s two-legged semifinals: three-time Champions League winner CF Monterrey.

Thursday’s triumph was colossal for Sporting on multiple fronts. First and foremost, the club has reached the Champions League semis for the first time during the competition’s modern era, which began in 2008. Secondly, the team is now assured at least $200,000 in prize money, as Concacaf awards $500,000 to the tournament winner, $300,000 to the runners-up and $200,000 each to the sides that finish third and fourth.

Thirdly, and perhaps most prominently on the national soccer scene, Sporting are now carriers of the MLS torch. The fact that an MLS club has never won a modern-era Champions League is well documented, as is the fact that Mexican teams have won all 11 titles since 2008.

In order for MLS to overcome the heavy burden of history, Sporting will have to defeat two more foes from south of the border. Vermes’ side have already done so once, hammering Toluca 5-0 on aggregate in the Round of 16, but Monterrey, Santos and Tigres have all appeared far superior in quality.

The table below illustrates the furthest-advancing MLS teams in the Champions League since 2008. Three clubs—Real Salt Lake in 2011, the Montreal Impact in 2015 and Toronto FC in 2018—have come closest to winning the competition as runners-up. Only time will tell if Sporting can (1) join that group, and (2) become Major League Soccer’s first tournament champion.

FURTHEST-ADVANCING MLS CLUBS IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
(since tournament's modern era began in 2008)

Tournament Club(s) Stage Lost to Champion
2008-09 Houston
Montreal
Quarterfinals
Quarterfinals
Atlante
Santos Laguna
Atlante
2009-10 Columbus Quarterfinals Toluca Pachuca
2010-11 Real Salt Lake Finals Monterrey Monterrey
2011-12 Toronto FC Semifinals Santos Laguna Monterrey
2012-13 LA Galaxy
Seattle
Semifinals
Semifinals
Monterrey
Santos Laguna
Monterrey
2013-14 LA Galaxy
San Jose
Sporting
Quarterfinals
Quarterfinals
Quarterfinals
Tijuana
Toluca
Cruz Azul
Cruz Azul
2014-15 Montreal Finals Club America Club America
2015-16 D.C. United
LA Galaxy
Real Salt Lake
Seattle
Quarterfinals
Quarterfinals
Quarterfinals
Quarterfinals
Queretaro
Santos Laguna
Tigres UANL
Club America
Club America
2016-17 FC Dallas
Vancouver
Semifinals
Semifinals
Pachuca
Tigres UANL
Pachuca
2018 Toronto FC Finals Guadalajara Guadalajara
2019 Sporting Semifinals
(still active)
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Single-game tickets for the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals between Sporting and Monterrey at Children’s Mercy Park are now on sale at SeatGeek.com. The game will take place between April 9-11, and tickets are included in Sporting Kansas City Season Ticket Member packages.

Sporting will visit Monterrey for the first leg at Estadio BBVA Bancomer between April 2-4 before hosting the Mexican side in the decisive return fixture the following week. Concacaf will announce exact dates, kickoff times, streaming and broadcast details for both semifinal matches in the near term.

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