Major League Soccer teams have participated in the CONCACAF Champions Cup each season since the tournament took on the Champions League name in 2008–09. MLS may send up to ten teams to the CONCACAF Champions Cup each season — up to nine from the United States, and up to one from Canada.
The first MLS team to finish first in its group was Real Salt Lake in 2010. The first Champions League title won by an MLS side occurred in 2022, when Seattle Sounders FC defeated Mexico's UNAM 5–2 on aggregate in the final. Real Salt Lake, CF Montréal, Toronto FC and Los Angeles FC all also reached the final, with Real Salt Lake losing to Monterrey in 2011, CF Montréal to América in 2015, Toronto FC to Guadalajara in 2018, and Los Angeles FC to UANL in 2020 and León in 2023, respectively. Seattle are thus far the only MLS team to have won the Champions Cup under its current branding since 2008–09, and therefore was the first MLS side to participate at the FIFA Club World Cup.
Performance by round
The following table shows the number of MLS participants in the Champions Cup each season, as well as the number of MLS teams that have reached various stages in the knockout rounds. MLS teams performed poorly during the first two years, as fixture congestion from the Superliga tournament as well as CONCACAF Champions League preliminary rounds meant that MLS teams often fielded teams without their first choice players.
Beginning in 2018, the Champions League format was changed to eliminate group play and the knockout round started with sixteen teams rather than eight. Beginning in 2024, the format was expanded to include five knockout rounds and twenty-seven teams.
- MLS sent only four teams to the Champions League in 2008–09 because the Canadian team, the Montreal Impact, played in the USL First Division at the time.
Performance by opposition in knockout series
The following table shows the performance of MLS teams in the knockout rounds for each home-and-away series for opponents from various leagues. During the first nine seasons of the Champions League, MLS teams did not play any foreign teams in knockout stage other than Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama. With the change in tournament format in the 2018 season, specifically with the knockout rounds now including a round of 16, MLS teams have played knockout matches against a greater variety of countries.
In the Champions Cup knockout rounds, MLS teams have played Mexican teams more than any other country, in some years facing multiple matchups. Seattle's 2013 quarter-final win over Mexico's UANL was the first time since the Champions League format began in 2008–09 that an MLS team eliminated a Mexican team in the knockout rounds. Montreal repeated the feat in 2015 when they beat Mexico's Pachuca in the quarter-finals. In 2018, Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls both advanced to the semi-finals by beating Mexican teams, the first time that two MLS teams eliminated two Mexican teams in the same tournament. In 2020, Los Angeles FC became the first MLS team to eliminate three Mexican teams in the same tournament — beating Mexican opponents in the Round of 16, quarterfinals, and semifinals, before losing in the final to a Mexican team. MLS' improved performance against Mexican teams was attributed to MLS club academies focused on player development, and an increase in player salaries through the league's Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) program.
|Panama||Honduras||El Salvador||Guatemala|| Dominican
|Totals||14–36 (28%)||10–1 (91%)||2–2 (50%)||5–2 (71%)||2–0 (100%)||2–1 (67%)||1–0 (100%)||1–0 (100%)||1–1 (50%)|
CONCACAF Club Index
The CONCACAF Club Index was introduced in 2018 as a way of seeding the 16 teams in the knockout rounds. The index does not rank clubs but ranks member association qualification slots and is based on the past five prior years' results. Points are awarded as follows: 4 for participation, 3 for a win, 2 for Champions, 1 for draw, and 1 for stage advanced.
The following table shows the index for the five Canadian and American teams. For context, the table also shows the index for the lowest-ranked Mexican slot and the highest-ranked Central American slot.
|2018 rank (points)||2019 rank (points)||2020 rank (points)||2021 rank (points)|
|4 — MEX4 (101)||4 — CAN1 (84)||4 – CAN1 (79)||4 – USA3 (75)|
|5 — USA3 (76)||5 — USA3 (77)||5 – USA3 (77)||5 – CAN1 (66)|
|6 — CAN1 (73)||6 — MEX4 (75)||6 – USA4 (60)||6 – USA2 (65)|
|7 — USA1 (73)||7 — USA4 (65)||7 – USA2 (58)||7 – USA1 (53)|
|8 — USA2 (71)||8 — USA1 (64)||8 – USA1 (58)||8 – USA4 (52)|
|9 — USA4 (71)||9 — PAN1 (57)||9 – CRC2 (53)||9 – MEX4 (48)|
|10 — CRC1 (65)||10 — USA2 (56)||10 – MEX4 (50)||10 – CRC2 (39)|
Performance by team
As of 2023, 23 MLS teams have appeared in the CONCACAF Champions Cup since the inaugural 2008–09 Champions League season.
Seattle Sounders FC became champions in 2022, ending Liga MX's winning streak in the competition. They were the fifth MLS club to make it to the final, following Real Salt Lake in 2011, Montreal Impact in 2015, Toronto FC in 2018 and Los Angeles FC in 2020.
Canadian teams in MLS – CF Montréal, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC – qualify to the Champions Cup via a separate competition, the Canadian Championship, and they represent the Canadian Soccer Association. Starting in 2024, all three Canadian teams may qualify through MLS slots. The only times MLS standings were used for Canadian teams qualification were the 2014 season to determine the 2015–16 Champions League representative, as the Canadian Championship format was changed that season, and the 2020 season to determine the 2021 Champions League representative, as the 2020 Canadian Championship was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting in 2018, the group stage was removed, so MLS teams now started in the Round of 16 (first round). Starting in 2024, one or two MLS teams will receive byes to the round of 16 (second round) while others will enter in the first round of 22 teams.
- As of 2023 tournament
|Atlanta United FC||3||8||4||1||3||11||10||+1||Quarter-finals|
|Austin FC||1||2||1||0||1||2||3||–1||Rnd of 16|
|Chivas USA*||1||2||0||1||1||1||3||–2||Preliminary round|
|Colorado Rapids||3||10||3||2||5||10||15||–5||Rnd of 16|
|Houston Dynamo FC||5||28||11||8||9||36||34||+2||Quarter-finals|
|Los Angeles FC||2||13||7||1||5||24||12||+12||Final|
|New England Revolution||2||4||1||0||3||4||9||–5||Quarter-finals|
|New York City FC||2||10||5||1||4||19||17||+2||Semi-finals|
|New York Red Bulls||5||22||8||8||6||27||19||+8||Semi-finals|
|Orlando City SC||1||2||0||2||0||1||1||0||Rnd of 16|
|Portland Timbers||3||8||5||1||2||22||13||+9||Group stage|
|Real Salt Lake||3||22||11||6||5||34||22||+12||Final|
|San Jose Earthquakes||1||6||2||2||2||6||4||+2||Quarter-finals|
|Seattle Sounders FC||7||46||20||11||15||72||59||+13||Final|
|Sporting Kansas City||4||20||9||4||7||31||30||+1||Semi-finals|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FCǂ||3||16||7||2||7||23||21||+2||Semi-finals|
ǂ – team represents Canada
* – team folded
Apps – CCC appearances
Pld – games played
W, D, L – wins, draws, losses
GF, GA, GD – goals for, goals against, goal difference
|Team (no. of participations)||Apps||08–09||09–10||10–11||11–12||12–13||13–14||14–15||15–16||16–17||2018||2019||2020||2021||2022||2023||2024|
|Seattle Sounders FC||7||•||GS||QF||SF||•||QF||•||QF||•||R16||•||C||•|
|Houston Dynamo FC||6||QF||GS||•||QF||GS||•||QF||•||Q|
|New York Red Bulls||5||•||PR||•||GS||•||QF||SF||QF||•|
|Sporting Kansas City||4||•||QF||GS||•||GS||•||SF||•|
|Vancouver Whitecaps FC||4||•||GS||SF||•||QF||Q|
|Atlanta United FC||3||did not exist||•||QF||QF||QF||•|
|Philadelphia Union||3||did not exist||•||SF||•||SF||Q|
|Real Salt Lake||3||•||F||•||GS||•||QF||•|
|Los Angeles FC||2||did not exist||•||F||•||F|
|New England Revolution||2||PR||•||QF||•|
|New York City FC||2||did not exist||•||QF||•||SF||•|
|Orlando City SC||2||did not exist||•||R16||Q|
|Austin FC||1||did not exist||•||R16||•|
|Chivas USA||1||PR||•||Team dissolved|
|FC Cincinnati||1||did not exist||•||Q|
|Inter Miami CF||1||did not exist||•||Q|
|Nashville SC||1||did not exist||•||Q|
|San Jose Earthquakes||1||•||QF||•|
|St. Louis City SC||1||did not exist||Q|
Other continental competitions
MLS teams have participated in other continental competitions.
- 2005 — D.C. United played in the Round of 16, where they lost 3–4 in aggregate over two legs (1–1, 2–3) to Chile's Universidad Católica.
- 2007 — D.C. United played in the Round of 16, where they lost 2–2 on aggregate on away goals (2–1, 0–1) to Mexico's Guadalajara.
- American soccer clubs in international competitions
- Canadian soccer clubs in international competitions
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- Baxter, Kevin (March 17, 2018). "There's no longer a big gap in the level of play between Mexico's Liga MX and MLS, Donovan says". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 17, 2018.
- Marshall, Tom (March 15, 2018). "CONCACAF Champions League will benefit from MLS wins over Liga MX". ESPN. Archived from the original on April 13, 2018.
- "Q&A: Club Index for 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Draw". www.concacafchampionsleague.com. November 29, 2017. Archived from the original on October 2, 2018. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
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