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MLS Vs. Liga MX: Concacaf Champions League Power Rankings

It's almost been four months since Seattle made history by defeating Pumas to become the first MLS team to win the Concacaf Champions League, and although we've still got some time before we start the 2023 competition, we can start making predictions with the Liga MX field already filled and the MLS representatives now (somewhat) predictable.

I couldn't tell you who's coming through the CONCACAF League (six clubs) or if Haiti's Violette AC is going to be a force next year, so I haven't included them in these rankings. However, it's worth remember that Comunicaciones brought on the CCL Fever like no other last year.

Usual suspects like Alajuelense, Herediano and Olimpia are on course, but with MLS now spending at Liga MX's level, the disadvantage for clubs from Central America and the Caribbean has never been greater.

2023 Concacaf Champions League Power Rankings

#10. Sacramento Republic (USLC)

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Previous Appearances: 0 | Best Finish: N/A

90 minutes at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on Sep. 7 in the U.S. Open Cup final — that's all that separates USL Championship side Sacramento Republic from a spot in the Champions League. Obviously nothing like this has happened before, but Sacramento will be entirely deserving if it can add Orlando to a tournament hit list that already includes the San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy. 

The Republic's story is probably best exemplified by 35-year-old midfielder Rodrigo López, the competition's leading scorer, who went through the Guadalajara youth system before playing for Chivas USA, Portland, Orlando, Toluca, Veracruz and many others. Let's go Quails!

#9. Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS)

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Previous Appearances: 2 | Best Finish: Semifinals (2016)

Vancouver's already booked its spot by beating Toronto in the Canadian Championship, although Vanni Sartini's side is currently just beneath the playoff line in the MLS Western Conference.

The squad isn't the sexiest with zero All-Star selections, although 26-year-old Scottish attacker Ryan Gauld is highly regarded and Canada international Lucas Cavallini leads the team with eight goals in 21 games.

#8. León (Liga MX)

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Previous Appearances: 5 | Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2022)

León failed to make the 2022 Clausura playoffs and is again struggling in the Apertura. In last year's CCL, León got thumped 4-1 on aggregrate by Seattle in the quarters.

You'll recognize stalwarts like keeper Rodolfo Cota, Concacaf legend Joel Campbell, Luis Montes and Ángel Mena, but the leading recent scorers have been Argentine Lucas Di Yorio and Chilean Víctor Dávila.

#7. Orlando City (MLS)

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Previous Appearances: 0 | Best Finish: N/A 

Only second-division Sacramento in the Open Cup final stands in the way of Orlando qualifying for its first CCL, and Óscar Pareja has the Lions on track for a third straight MLS Cup playoff appearance.

32-year-old Uruguayan Mauricio Pereyra is one of the league's best No. 10s, but his young compatriot Facundo Torres has also emerged as a serious threat on the left wing. The oft-injured Alexandre Pato is injured again and will undergo surgery on his right knee in September.

#6. Austin FC (MLS)

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Previous Appearances: 0 | Best Finish: N/A

The United States gets four teams in the CCL and Austin has a pretty decent chance of making that happen one way or another at this point. Los Verdes have kept the pressure on LAFC at the top of the Western Conference, and 26-year-old Argentine Sebastián Driussi is a leading candidate for the Landon Donovan MVP Award.  

#5. Philadelphia Union (MLS)

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Previous Appearances: 1 | Best Finish: Semifinals (2021)

Philadelphia is LAFC's closest rival for the Supporters' Shield, but the Union are also a safe bet to qualify for the CCL by winning the Eastern Conference. The Union boasts the best defense in MLS with Andre Blake in goal, Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott at the heart of it and Kai Wagner on the left. 

The attack filters through 26-year-old Hungary international Dániel Gazdag, but the real treat is an All-American midfield mixing past, present and future with 35-year-old Alejandro Bedoya, 21-year-old Leon Flach and 19-year-old Jack McGlynn. It's also worth keeping tabs on the 18-year-old duo of Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan. 

#4. Pachuca (Liga MX)

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Previous Appearances: 4 | Best Finish: Champion (2017)

The 2022 Clausura runner-up is in the hunt for the Apertura title with a lineup that would certainly terrorize MLS. Up top, Argentine forward Nicolás Ibáñez is one of the league's best while Víctor Guzmán is a skillful creator. Avilés Hurtado and Luis Chávez are standout midfielders, but the same could be said of Kevin Álvarez and Gustavo Cabral in defense and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari.

#3. Atlas (Liga MX)

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Previous Appearances: 0 | Best Finish: N/A

The back-to-back Liga MX champion behind goalkeeper Camilo Vargas, center back Hugo Nervo, midfielder Aldo Rocha, attacker Julián Quiñones and the celebrated mind of manager Diego Cocca, Atlas is finally making its CCL debut. La Academia has started slowly in the Apertura, but we predict a very serious approach to the CCL. 

#2. Tigres (Liga MX)

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Previous Appearances: 7 | Best Finish: Champion (2020)

UANL achieved qualification by being consistently good — finishing fourth in the 2021 Apertura table and second in the 2022 Clausura — without ever winning the title. Tigres are again amongst the favorites for the 2022 Apertura. 

Loaded with goalkeeper Nahuel Guzmán and defenders Diego Reyes and Jesús Angulo at the back, captain Guido Pizarro, playmaker Sebastián Córdova and Javier Aquino in midfield, and one of North America's best attacks with André-Pierre Gignac, Luis Quiñones and Nicolás López, this squad is consistently the pride of North America.

#1. LAFC (MLS)

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Previous Appearances: 1 | Best Finish: Runner-up (2020)

After winning the CCL title last year, it's only right that MLS takes top spot. With eight matches still to play, LAFC has already clinched a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs and is almost a lock for the Supporters' Shield. 

Much like Tigres in Liga MX, LAFC is unmatched in terms of its depth from back to front. In defense, Diego Palacios is one of the league's best full-backs, 19-year-old Mamadou Fall is a highly regarded center back, Giorgio Chiellini is made for the CCL and Ilie Sánchez and Kellyn Acosta provide the midfield shield. The front three of Cristian Arango, Carlos Vela and Gareth Bale is why we'll all tune in, and the transfer of 22-year-old Brian Rodríguez to Club América is going to be quickly offset by the addition of former Barcelona winger Cristian Tello.

Could we see a rematch of the 2020 final — when Gignac's 84th-minute strike won it for Tigres — in 2023? 

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