The Philadelphia Union's player Sergio Santos commented about their journey in the CONCACAF Champions League. Photo: Getty Images.
The Philadelphia Union's player Sergio Santos commented about their journey in the CONCACAF Champions League. Photo: Getty Images.

The Philadelphia Union’s Sergio Santos is ready to make more history in team’s clash with Club América

In its first season in an international competition, the Philadelphia Union has reached the semi-final of the CONCACAF Champions League.


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The CONCACAF Champions League, North America’s most prestigious club soccer tournament, will resume this week with the first legs of the semi-final games. 

On Wednesday, Aug. 11, Mexican league fans will be in for an intense game between Monterrey and recent league champions Cruz Azul, who recently broke a league title drought that lasted over 23 years. 

The Philadelphia Union will travel to the Estadio Azteca to take on Club América, the most successful club in Liga MX and CONCACAF Champions League, with 13 and seven titles respectively. 

Sergio Santos, a 26 year-old Brazilian forward for the Union, commented on the size of Thursday’s opponent and playing in a stadium that has hosted the finals of the 1970 and 1986 World Cups.

“América is a very strong team with a lot of history and this is the toughest challenge I have had in my career personally,” he said. “That stadium is going to be full of fans and Mexico’s crowds are among the most passionate but hopefully we can knick a goal or not concede so that the pass to the final can be decided at home.”

Philadelphia’s players presumably have plenty of weight on their shoulders being the last Major League Soccer (MLS) side left in the tournament, but Santos sees this as a motivator. 

“No one had faith in this team to reach this far. More successful teams have been knocked out. We do not have pressure because no one expected this and we know that if we keep our good spirits and motivation going we can continue to do things the right way in this tournament,” Santos said.  

They were founded in 2008, but did not start playing in the MLS as an expansion team until 2010. 

In the Union’s short history, they clinched their first piece of silverware last year by winning the league’s Supporters’ Shield — an annual award given to the club with the best points total in the regular season. 

“The Supporters’ Shield served as another reason for people to believe in us and for fans to keep supporting us. I’m overjoyed to have my name in the club’s history now,” Santos said. 

Their performance in the regular season granted them entry into the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League and this is their first participation in an international competition. 

Victories against Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa and league rival Atlanta United brought them to this stage. 

Santos has prior experience competing in international tournaments when he played for Audax Italiano in Chile. 

He helped his former team qualify for the first round of the Copa Sudamericana against Brazilian outfit Botafogo. Unfortunately for Santos, they lost the tie across the two games, but he scored in the first fixture in Chile. 

The Brazilian forward outlined the comparisons between his experiences in North and South American continental competitions. 

“América like Botafogo are big teams in their respective countries and Audax, similarly to Philadelphia, had not reached the highest levels but we always gave the stronger sides a fight,” he said. 

The second leg of the semi-final will take place on Sept. 15 at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. 

If they win that game, the Union will be in the final against another Mexican side and have a chance to be the first MLS to win the tournament since it was rebranded to the Champions League in 2008. 

Fans are close to imagining Philadelphia competing at the FIFA Club World Cup, a tournament where all of the champions of all the confederations face each other. 

Making it this far is already a success story, but they might be able to keep the momentum going to lift their international title in their debut campaign. 

In December, Santos would have been with the Philadelphia Union for three years and he knows that despite what happens in these few matches, he is elated about his time in the MLS. 

“If I stay I’d be happy but if not I will leave with my heart full of memories of Philadelphia and honored to be part of this team,” he said.  “Being the champions of CONCACAF and going to a club World Cup would be the most beautiful thing for me after my family.”  


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