Sounders become first MLS team to win CONCACAF Champions League

SEATTLE — Turns out this actually was the year for Major League Soccer.

The run of MLS teams wondering when or if they’d be able to win a CONCACAF Champions League title was finally put to rest Wednesday at Lumen Field, where the Seattle Sounders defeated Mexican side Pumas UNAM 3-0 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate.

The always-reliable Raul Ruidiaz scored the opening goal on a deflected ball right before halftime:

Then in the 80th minute, he sent the crowd into a frenzy with the dagger, finishing a beautiful team build-up as chants of “Raul” filled the night:

Nico Lodeiro, who scored twice from the penalty spot in Mexico City last week to salvage an equal scoreline after the first leg, added the third goal shortly before stoppage time.

The Champions League, like its European counterpart, pits the top clubs from each league across the continent against each other in a tournament every winter and spring.

Since the establishment of the CONCACAF Champions League in its current iteration in 2008, Real Salt Lake, Montreal, Toronto FC and LAFC all reached the final but fell short to Liga MX opposition. If any MLS side was going to do it, of course it was the Sounders.

They’ve had a great run since entering the league in 2009, racking up two MLS Cups, a Supporters’ Shield and four U.S. Open Cups. This team is no stranger to the moment, and that was evident on Wednesday as they dictated the game throughout the 90 minutes, even with star players Nouhou and Joao Paulo both exiting early due to injury.

The Sounders now qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup, which includes champions from all seven FIFA confederations across the globe. The tournament typically takes place in December, though this year's event is yet to be announced since the men's World Cup is scheduled for November and December in Qatar.

Unlike when Mexican teams would dominate against MLS, Seattle wasn’t about to let that happen on its turf, especially not in front of an announced record crowd of 68,741, the largest in CONCACAF Champions League history. The large home atmosphere is a big reason why the Sounders so dangerous. They've surpassed 60,000 fans on nine occasions now, and they’ve won eight of those contests while drawing the other.

This was the sweetest. Whether it was goalkeeper Stefan Frei making some huge saves or newcomer Albert Rusnak stepping up all over the pitch, everyone contributed in the victory. Even 16-year-old Obed Vargas, who was unexpectedly thrusted into the game half hour in after Paulo’s injury.

Depth — which has frequently broken MLS teams in this competition — was tested for Seattle, but head coach Brian Schmetzer navigated it successfully.

The fans' pregame tifo read "Kings of Cascadia. Rulers of MLS. NEXT: CONCACAF."

They were right. This was the year.

Raul Ruidiaz (9) celebrates after scoring his second goal with teammates Nico Lodeiro (left) and Albert Rusnak as the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Raul Ruidiaz (9) celebrates after scoring his second goal with teammates Nico Lodeiro (left) and Albert Rusnak as the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)