Soccer – currently a club sport at Salt Lake Community College and the most popular sport worldwide – is having a CONCACAF League of Champions championship match played in Salt Lake City.
Real Salt Lake took an unconventional path to the top spot in the league in 2009: despite their strong finish to the regular season that year, RSL was reassigned to 8th place in Eastern Conference standings for the playoffs, as a result of the amount of depth in the Western Conference.
As the 8th seed, RSL pulled off an upset by winning the MLS Cup in 2009, defeating the L.A. Galaxy by penalty kicks in the championship match held in Seattle, Washington. This provided a boost to Salt Lake City because RSL is the first professional sports team to win a championship in the city’s history.
This year, the former MLS champs have another shot of being champions, but this time in international play: the CONCACAF League of Champions (Liga de Campeones) is a tournament that includes the former champions of each soccer league in North America and the Caribbean.
Due to their nations’ large soccer leagues, the United States and Mexico each had four teams qualify for the league. The four U.S. teams are the L.A. Galaxy, the Seattle Sounders, the Columbus Crew and RSL. Teams from Mexico include Toluca, Santos, Cruz Azul and Monterrey. El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Islands were represented in league play with two or three teams.
With the strength of teams in international play, many MLS fans did not expect RSL to advance this far in the tournament. Despite facing teams superior in talent to them, RSL beat all of their opponents in previous rounds to advance to the CONCACAF final to play defending FMF (Mexican League) champion Monterrey.
Monterrey didn’t have it easy either; they also had to defeat difficult opponents on their way to the final game. Monterrey is looking for their first intentional championship. The league in Mexico is coming to an end, and with the CONCACAF final around the corner, Monterrey wants to be greedy and take it all.
It’s important for both teams to win this title because the champion will go on to the 2011 FIFA Club World Cup. This is a championship match for teams around the world that allows soccer clubs from around the world to represent the country and the city they are from. For Real Salt Lake or Monterrey, a win on April 27th would be their first CONCACAF championship and their first entry to the FIFA Club World Cup.
The first game of the CONCACAF final was played April 20th in Monterrey. The game had late-action drama, as RSL’s Javier Morales tied the game at 2-2 with a goal in the 89th minute. The final will be played Wednesday the 27th at a sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium. To win the championship, RSL has to win the game outright or tie Monterrey with a score of 0-0 or 1-1.