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What’s at stake for the Crew in CONCACAF Champions Cup final

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Crew is in Mexico this week and preparing for arguably its biggest game in its 28-year history.

The Crew is scheduled to play C.F. Pachuca at 9:15 p.m. Saturday in the CONCACAF Champions Cup final. It’s the first time the Crew is playing in a continental cup final as it aims for its second intercontinental trophy.

Columbus enters the game fresh off a three-game road winning streak in MLS play and can join an extremely exclusive club if it can defeat Pachuca. Here is what is at stake for the Crew.

Join premium tier of MLS teams

Mexican teams have been dominant for decades in the region that includes North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The Champions Cup has been around since 1962 and gone through multiple makeovers, but the constant has been Mexican success.

Of the 60 CONCACAF titles, 38 have been won by Mexican teams, with just three going to American teams: D.C. United in 1998, the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2000 and the Seattle Sounders in 2022.

The competition can be separated into two eras: pre-Champions League (1962-2008) and the Champions League/Cup (2009-present). Mexican teams won all titles except one in the Champions League era.

Win first continental cup via toughest path

When Seattle won the 2022 Champions League, it did so without winning any road games, including two in Mexico. The Crew could win it with three victories in Mexico.

Columbus has gone through one of the toughest paths to the final that began with a 2-1 aggregate victory over the Houston Dynamo in the round of 16. After that, the Crew went against the UANL Tigres of Mexico, the 2020 champions.

After a 1-1 tie at Lower.com Field, the Crew persevered past an early goal in the third minute of the second leg in Mexico and tied the score on a Diego Rossi goal. After that tie, the Crew won on penalties 4-3, with goalkeeper Patrick Schulte making two saves.

The first penalty shootout win by an MLS club in Mexico was followed by two exceptional performances against Monterrey in the semifinals: a 2-1 victory at Lower.com Field followed by a 3-1 win in Monterrey. If the Crew can beat Pachuca, it could be considered the most impressive CONCACAF title for any American team.

2025 Club World Cup spot

Becoming the champion of your continent comes with perks, and one is a spot in a first-of-its-kind competition.

The winner of Saturday’s final will book a spot in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup, which will be played in the United States from June 15 to July 13. The Club World Cup has traditionally been a seven-team tournament that takes place in the winter.

Next year’s tournament will have 32 teams from all over the globe and serve as a warmup for the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America. The Crew could guarantee itself a competitive match against a European club as one of the home teams.

If Columbus wins, it would join Seattle as the only MLS team to play in the FIFA competition.

2025 FIFA Club World Cup teams

Asia (4): Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan), Al Ain (UAE), Ulsan HD (South Korea)

Africa (4): Al Ahly (Egypt), Wydad Casablanca (Morocco), Esperance de Tunis (Tunisia), Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)

CONCACAF (4): Monterrey (Mexico), Seattle Sounders (USA), Club Leon (Mexico), Columbus Crew or Pachuca

South America (6): Palmeiras (Brazil), Flamengo (Brazil), Fluminense (Brazil), River Plate (Argentina), two spots to be determined on or before Nov. 30

Oceania (1): Auckland City (New Zealand)

Europe (12): Chelsea (England), Real Madrid (Spain), Manchester City (England), Bayern Munich (Germany), Paris Saint-Germain (France), Inter Milan (Italy), FC Porto (Portugal), SL Benfica (Portugal), Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Juventus (Italy), Atletico Madrid (Spain), Red Bull Salzburg (Austria)

United States (1): To be determined

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