Here we go again. After history kept rivals Monterrey and Tigres out of the same final for 43 years, we've been gifted with another Final Regia just a year and a half after the first.
Rayados stomped Sporting Kansas City 5-2 Thursday night, putting the finishing touches on a 10-2 aggregate win in an embarrassing Concacaf Champions League for MLS. Now, the region's most important club tournament, and its spot in the Club World Cup, will be decided in the same city with the clubs playing the deciding second leg just eight miles from where they'll contest the first.
The two teams went into the tournament as the favorites to make the final, and the possibility of another Final Regia was apparent when the draw was made and they ended up on opposite sides of the bracket.
The northern clubs' directors weren't about to stand pat, especially after missing out on the last several finals since the crosstown clash in the 2017 Apertura. Their already talented and deep squads were strengthened.
Tigres splashed the cash to bring Mexico center back Carlos Salcedo back to Liga MX as a replacement for the retiring Juninho. It also re-signed Andre-Pierre Gignac, though it's worth noting that Tigres have rolled into the final without their star French forward being healthy. Rayados added Argentine international Maxi Meza from Independiente and signed a Mexico defender of its own, bringing in Miguel Layun even though there already were options at fullback and winger.
The result has been the clubs competing in the league but also putting together cohesive units for CCL matches that have bulldozed nearly everything in their paths on the way to the final. Tigres often have fallen short in international competition, with the defeat at the hands of Toronto FC last season only the latest frustration in international play for a club that also has lost two CCL finals. Tripping up before getting a chance at the trophy wasn't going to happen this time around, with MLS clubs proving to be cannon fodder for most Mexican teams (though not Toluca) as the top two sides in the region took their rightful place in the final.
Now, we have a meeting with plenty on the line. It seemed foretold from the first final, with each team continuing to put together impressive projects. After losing the second leg on their home field in 2017, Rayados, in particular, have desperately been hoping to see Tigres in a final again and quiet the fans who sing every match about "becoming champion in your house."
"A year and a bit ago we started looking for this game. We knew it would come back around because we're both doing things really well," Monterrey forward Rogelio Funes Mori told Univision after Thursday's match.
"It's a chance at revenge that football has given to us, an opportunity to play against Tigres again and we're going to give everything for our fans and for ourselves to win it."
There is less mystique around this final, now that one already has taken place in league play, yet it will be another chance for Monterrey to showcase not only its football but its city. Hopefully "La Sultana del Norte" will be able to showcase its beauty and passion rather than some blights on the game like it has recently.
There were the violent incidents outside El Volcan that marred the edition there in the Apertura. That gruesome video of a fan being mobbed by a rival group, struck with a stone and left on the street should concern authorities, especially after the most recent intracity final in the Americas ended up being played in Europe because of crowd trouble.
Yet, with the Clausura matchup taking place without major incident, there should be plenty of hope that this football-loving city not only will return to the friendly yet intense, neighbor-versus-neighbor vibe of matches past, but also that this final will provide a perfect stage for a continental champion to be crowned.