CONCACAF Champions Cup
Concacaf Champions Cup final: Pachuca tops Columbus to reach FIFA Club World Cup
CONCACAF Champions Cup

Concacaf Champions Cup final: Pachuca tops Columbus to reach FIFA Club World Cup

Published Jun. 2, 2024 12:03 a.m. ET

MLS's 2022 Concacaf title might not have been a sign that the U.S. and Canada's top soccer league is close to overtaking Mexico's Liga MX as the best in North America.

Reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew became the circuit's latest to fall short against better funded Mexican opposition in Saturday's Concacaf Champions Cup final. The Crew conceded two first half goals at Pachuca and lost 2-0, ending Columbus' bid to become just the second MLS team to win the regional club championship since 2001. The win sends Pachuca to the expanded 2025 FIFA Club World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States next summer.

Liga MX boasts 19 wins this millennium, but the gradual loosening of some salary restrictions for MLS teams and the Seattle Sounders triumph over Leon two years ago suggested that MLS was close to surpassing its Mexican counterpart, which lets its clubs spend on players however they see fit. But LAFC lost to Leon in last year's final, and the Crew — the only MLS side to reach the semis in 2024 — finally fell in the 8,000-foot altitude of Estadio Hidalgo on Saturday after beating both Tigres and Monterrey south of the border to advance to Saturday's decider.

Former Premier League striker Salomón Rondón scored the opener and eventual game-winner for Los Tuzos less than 12 minutes into the contest. Miguel Emilio Rodriguez Macías added a backbreaking second goal 20 minutes later:


Rondón would add a third to complete the rout midway through the second half, but the truth is that the Crew probably never stood a chance in the razor-thin air of Pachuca, where the hosts have a gaudy 27W-0L-3T record in their last 30 Concacaf matches.

Play of the game

Rodriguez Macías's pretty strike and Rondón's clincher got the party started early for the home side, but the latter's opener changed everything. The visitors were at a clear disadvantage under Concacaf's new format, which this year changed the finale from a home-and-home total-goals-wins series to a one-off affair at the home of the higher seed. Add in the altitude, and there was no coming back from the early gut-punch:

Turning point

Moments before Rodriguez Macías made it 2-0, Columbus produced maybe its best scoring chance of the night. Coach Wilfried Nancy's side has through this tournament gained a well-earned reputation for an attractive, slick-passing style. Those qualities were on full display as a series of one-touches opened up a clear look at goal for the Black & Yellow's star Colombian international striker, Cucho Hernandez. But Cucho hadn't played since May 11 because of a nagging injury, and he fired his shot just wide.

Key stat

True to form, the Crew kept the ball for most of the contest, out-possessing the hosts 54-percent to 46. But much of that was down to chasing the game for 78 minutes. And Pachuca did more with less, out-shooting Nancy's squad 23-11 and 8-3 on-frame.

What's next for Columbus?

The best news for the Crew is they go right back to league play immediately, starting with Friday's trip to the Bronx to face New York City FC. Columbus has fared well in the MLS regular season so far — they're in playoff position despite having played four fewer games than Eastern Conference leaders Inter Miami.

Los Tuzos will have plenty of time to celebrate their sixth Concacaf championship, their second since 2010. Pachuca doesn't return to action until July 30, when they visit MLS's New York Red Bulls in the group stage of the Leagues Cup.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered the United States men's and women's national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him at @ByDougMcIntyre.


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