Edwin Cardona (pictured) celebrates after scoring one of his two goals in Monterrey's win over visiting Club America in the Liga MX Clausura semifinals on May 21, 2016. (Photo: Mexsport)
MIAMI – Club football took center stage throughout region over the weekend as five berths to the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League were earned, bringing the field to 22 teams, with two more qualifiers remaining to be decided.
Three-time champion Monterrey will return for the first time since lifting the trophy in 2012/13, while Honduras’ Olimpia became the first and only team to secure a spot in each of the nine editions.
The last pair of SCCL spots will be decided later this month, after Clausura finals in El Salvador (Dragon-Aguila) and Guatemala (Suchitepequez-Comunicaciones) are contested.
CONCACAF.com takes a look at the action:
Olimpia clinched its 30th Honduran title on Sunday with a 3-1 victory over visiting Real Sociedad in the second leg of the Clausura final for a 5-2 win on aggregate. Carlo Costly, who scored Honduras’ only goal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, netted in each game of the series.
Only the Mexican trio of Cruz Azul (106), Santos (95) and Monterrey (81) have accumulated more points in Champions League play than Olimpia (55), which is 5W-1D-0L in its last six home games in the competition.
The Lions and Honduras Progreso (the 2015 Apertura) are Honduras’ representatives in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CCL.
By advancing to the Liga MX Clausura final, Monterrey and Pachuca also booked places in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CCL.
Monterrey prevailed over current Champions League champion Club America (agg: 4-3), winning the second leg at home, 4-2, and snapping a two-game losing streak. Edwin Cardona scored two goals for the Rayados in victory, while Michael Arroyo did the same for Club America.
Pachuca sealed its third trip to the Champions League with a 3-2 aggregate triumph over Leon. Hirving Lozano’s goal in the third minute of stoppage time in the second leg dashed Leon’s hopes of progressing, despite winning the encounter, 2-1. The Tuzos, who won the 2009/10 SCCL crown, have never been shutout in 20 all-time Champions League games and are unbeaten at home (9W-1D-0L).
Tigres and Pumas had previously qualified for the next SCCL by finishing as champion and runner-up, respectively, in the 2015 Apertura.
Club America had won the last two Champions League titles.
After missing out last year, Real Esteli will return to the Scotiabank CCL as the Nicaraguan champion with the most points from both seasons. El Tren del Norte captured the 2016 Clausura crown, prevailing over Walter Ferretti in the two-legged final (agg: 1-0). Carlos Chavarria scored the series’ only goal, netting in the ninth minute of the second leg.
Real Esteli, which has appeared in five previous SCCL editions, finished with 87 points, while 2015 Apertura champion UNAN Managua accumulated 64.
Plaza Amador captured its sixth Panamanian title with a 1-0 win over Chorrillo FC on Sunday in the 2016 Clausura final. Ernesto Sinclair’s 24th minute goal gave the Lions their first domestic crown since 2005. Thanks to an extraordinary defense, Plaza Amador conceded a league-best nine goals in 18 games (no other team allowed less than 16) to finish second in the regular-season table (29 points), three points behind Atletico Nacional.
Arabe Unido, the 2015 Apertura champion, will be Panama’s other representative in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CCL.