MLS vs. Liga MX in CCL semifinals will be fun, but not a referendum

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Pedro Pardo
Two inter-league clashes will make for a final four that's enjoyable and entertaining, but not something to teach overarching lessons.

The semifinals are nearly set and for the second time in CONCACAF Champions League history, each semifinal will feature a Liga MX side taking on an MLS team. 

FC Dallas finished off Arabe Unido after a 4-0 first leg victory, losing 2-1 Wednesday but rolling on aggregate. With the other semifinal already set to be Mexico vs. MLS, the FCD vs. Pachuca game makes it two.

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The games will be a lot of fun. Mexico and the United States have an excellent rivalry at the national team level, but that hasn't always manifested itself at club level with Liga MX clubs generally far ahead.

You can't overstate Mexico's dominance in the competition. Since the format switch in 2008, only Mexican teams have won the tournament. Several seasons have seen all-Liga MX finals. MLS teams have made it twice, 

There also was the 2013-14 edition, which saw three quarterfinals pit Liga MX teams against MLS sides. The Liga MX clubs won all three.

All that history doesn't have teams afraid. FCD and whichever team comes out of Thursday's showdown between the New York Red Bulls and the Vancouver Whitecaps both will feel like this is the year an MLS team finally breaks through.

"Meeting with Arabe Unido, we knew it was going to be a tough opponent, who knocked Monterrey out. Up against them, we were able to win," FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti said Wednesday after the second leg. "Now, Pachuca. We’re calm. We know what we have to do. We’re depending on ourselves, and if we do things well, we’re going to be able to continue."

Yet, while it's tempting to think this is a grand referendum on each league, two games aren't enough of a sample to shake things up - no matter who comes out on top. If the final is all-Mexico, many will be tempted to point to it as a sign that MLS' growth is exaggerated, while an all-MLS final would lead to proclamations that MLS has arrived as a power in CONCACAF.

Neither is entirely true. With so few games between the two leagues, sustained success is the only reliable measuring stick, and it would take MLS time to change the tide in addition to positive results. Maybe we'll have more measuring 

Instead of making declarations that one league or the other is displaying supremacy, we will be better served if we enjoy these matches for what they are. FC Dallas and Pachuca are both among the most entertaining teams in their leagues, boasting young, homegrown talents and styles of play that often produces beautiful attacking moves. 

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Tigres' strong side also has been fun to watch, and how the MLS team they come up against approaches the tall task of stopping the star-studded attack will be a joy to watch as well.

As fans, we're lucky to live in this era where we can pull all this soccer up with a push of the button, and the CCL semifinals have ended up producing two delightful matchups. Sit back, relax and enjoy. 

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