In many ways, this has already been a breakthrough year for MLS teams in CONCACAF Champions League play. Not one, but two teams managed to win matches in Mexico and heading into the final round of games MLS teams have gone a perfectly respectable 3-4-1 against their Mexican counterparts so fa.
Just how much of a breakthrough this year proves to be, though, will be determined by this round of games. Only one MLS team is guaranteed to advance to the quarterfinals, but as many as four could make it. In the previous three CCL's, four MLS teams have advanced as far as the quarterfinals with at least one team making it every year. Even more impressive, MLS teams could theoretically win every group or as few as none of them.
Of those four teams, you have to think at least two of them would be well positioned to make a run at the CCL final. Both the Galaxy and the Sounders have shown the kind of depth teams need to succeed in this tournament.
Let's look at how each of the five MLS teams has done and what they can still accomplish:
Seattle Sounders: So far the most impressive of the MLS teams, they have lost just one of their first five games and can win Group D with nothing more than a tie at home against Monterrey. They would become just the second MLS team to win their group — Real Salt Lake was the first last year — and the first MLS team to go undefeated against Mexican sides during the group stage.
This is their second straight year in the tournament and have improved considerably from last year, when they went 1-5-0. Regardless of Tuesday's outcome, this has to be considered a successful CCL run. They are already assured of a spot in the quarterfinals and their win in Monterrey against what was essentially a first-choice lineup was a real benchmark for the league.
Los Angeles Galaxy: Winning the group is going to require a bit of good fortune, but not too much. If they can beat winless Montagua, they are assured of moving through and can win the group if Morelia beats Alajuelense by just one goal.
Considering this was a team that couldn't even beat the Puerto Rico Islanders in the qualifying round a year ago, this has to be considered a massive step forward. Bruce Arena played his biggest stars whenever they were available and put on a good show in going 1-1-0 against Morelia.
FC Dallas: They can also win their group by beat beating Toronto FC, and would stand a decent chance at advancing if they tie. The real disaster in this group from a MLS perspective is if all four teams end up on eight points, which could happen if Tauro beats Pumas, as both MLS sides would lose on tiebreakers.
It's tough to say how this will go down in FC Dallas lore. On one hand, they became the first MLS team to win in Mexico when they beat Pumas. On the other hand, CCL coincided with a pretty awful turn in form in MLS play that left Dallas with just one win over a two-month span. Anything less than advancement to the quarterfinals will probably be seen as very disappointing.
Toronto FC: With such an awful start to their MLS season, the Reds knew early on that CCL would be the biggest prize they'd probably be playing for all year. If they can beat Dallas, they'll punch their ticket to the quarterfinals and become just the second Canadian team to ever get that far (the Montreal Impact did it in the tournament's first year).
They probably need to beat FC Dallas to move on to the quarterfinals and could actually win the group as well. Failure to advance wouldn't be a disaster, but it's hard to feel good about anything less.
Colorado Rapids: They got a lot of flack for not only sending a skeleton squad to Isidro Metapan, but by also failing to bring their head coach. That they managed to win that game somewhat absolves them of second-guessing, but it's hard to shake the idea that they treat this tournament more as a nuisance than as something they legitimately would like to win.
That said, if they can figure out a way to beat Santos Laguna in Mexico, they'll earn a spot in the quarterfinals and could even win the group if they won by more than three goals (unbelievably unlikely as it may be). Their travel roster looks to be basically first-choicers and Gary Smith is even schlepping down to Estadio Corona.
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