Commentary: Sounders FC are closer than you might think from facing a world powerhouse
No team likes to get ahead of themselves, hence the most overused sports cliché, "One game or match at a time."
But from the outside looking in, I can’t contain my anticipation of something I’d guess a good portion of our audience isn’t even aware of right now.
The next two Wednesday nights, the Sounders will play New York City FC in a two-leg semifinal with the winner advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League Final. An American team hasn’t won CONCACAF Champions League in 22 years, and either Seattle or New York will have a chance to break that streak in a two-leg championship that begins at the end of this month.
The soccer savants understand how big this is, but I know there are still a number of viewers whose eyes gloss over at the sound of the acronym, CONCACAF, which is simply the governing body of soccer in our area of the world.
But what if I said: By winning this tournament, the Sounders would be just one or two wins away from playing a world-renowned powerhouse like Chelsea or Real Madrid or Bayern Munich or Liverpool? Not in an exhibition match, mind you. But for an actual trophy in a FIFA-regulated tournament.
That’s how serious this is, folks. That’s how close the Sounders are.
If you win CONCACAF Champions League, you reach the FIFA Club World Cup, that features the winners of the five other continental confederations of FIFA. And if you look at who has won UEFA Champions League the last five years, it is a who’s who of the European soccer world.
2020: Bayern Munich
2018: Real Madrid
2017: Real Madrid
Just three years ago, Monterrey of Mexico, who won CONCACAF, played Liverpool at the FIFA Club World Cup after winning their first match at the event.
In layman’s terms, if the Sounders can beat New York City FC and then beat a Mexican side in the final, they would not only make history by winning CONCACAF, but they would also be on the brink of the most significant international match in franchise history – on the brink of doing something Garth Lagerwey said just weeks after taking the job here in 2015.
"Goal 1A is going to be to set ourselves up to win the (CONCACAF) Champions League," Lagerwey said. "If we want to be a global brand…if we want to put ourselves on the map, I want to play Chelsea, I want to play Man U, I want to play Barcelona, I want to play them in the Club World Cup. In a meaningful game. For a trophy, not for a friendly."
Garth is literally a few wins away from making that wish come true. A chance to win trophies at the highest level of the sport.
And it’s something we should all have on our radar.