The FM23 Pentagon Challenge 14: CONCACAF
Hello, last time we were together I’d just won the Champion’s League with unfancied, but mega rich, Newcastle United. I immediately got into a row with the board and resigned. We’ve now done 2/5ths of the challenge, having won Asian and UEFA Champion’s Leagues. With three continents left to go; where is next?
Well, first and foremost we have to reject an approach from Ghana. I would love to go and manage Ghana but it’s against the rules.
However, another job offer immediately arrives from our friends in Mexico; CF Monterrey.
This is Monterrey. It looks pretty cool. I like that they built the city around what appears to be a hill that is still covered in forest. Monterrey is in the North-East of Mexico. It’s really warm and it never rains, apart from in September. It’s the second largest city in Mexico and has a population of around 5M. They eat baby goats or “cabrito”. The city hosted matches at the 1986 World Cup and will do so again in 2026. The city has two teams in Liga MX; CF Monterrey and Tigres UANL. Monterrey have five league titles, Tigres have seven. Monterrey has won more CONCACAF Champion’s League titles than any other team with five. In my save they’ve added another one and are regular contenders. Which is why I’m here. We might be able to knock CONCACAF off in one season.
ED: in the edit, it’s so weird seeing this team. I thought we’d be fairly settled. I can reveal at the end of the season only three of those players were starting. So, strap yourselves in!
Here are the boys. Martin Soler, our striker, is a guy I tried to sign twice beforehand. So, I know he’s good. He’s also at the World Cup and misses the start of the season because the season starts in early July. Trujillo and Zacarias are the best defenders in all positions. I’ve settled on two mediocre centre backs for now and we’ll look to buy a new one. Andrey Santos is a good creative midfielder. Villa, on the left, is decent. Langoni stinks but Monterrey have signed someone who joins in a few weeks from Man Utd, Salvador de Luna, who can play right wing and is really good. The bench is very thin. I notice we are favourites to win the league. I’m not used to being in such a middling league that players who would be subs at Newcastle are among the better players in the division.
My first piece of transfer business is recruiting another forward, as we’re a bit short, and this guy is the first player my scouts recommended. Hector Rangel. 18 years old, a natural pressing forward, big potential. He’s already great.
Right, CONCACAF Champion’s League. There are four groups of five teams. We are seeded in pot 2. Which means we should only get one hard team in our group. The hard team? Atlanta United. Hahaha. Third team in our group? Canadian side Atletico Ottawa. Pachuca and Real Salt Lake make up the numbers. I’ll come back to this when it’s relevant. Top two go through to the knock outs. The only team I’m worried about are the other Mexican team; Pachuca.
Look who else joins us at Monterrey?
Look at that history. He’s been with us every step of the way. Welcome to Mexico; Pape Diakite. He now speaks TEN languages due to his constant switching of countries. One of them isn’t Spanish. Speaking of getting my old mates together;
Reunited and it feels so good. I couldn’t sign George in England because of work permits and he’s crap at his job. No such issue in Mexico! Attram joins us too. On the transfers front; I needed a centre back. Welcome in Andre Vazquez from Club America for a fee of £12M. It’s a lot but he’s national team quality and way better than the other centre backs we have. Salvador de Luna comes in on a free from Man Utd. This was arranged before I got here. He does slot nicely into right midfield though. Victor Bejarano had a £7.5M release clause and was ideal for left midfield but he signed for Dortmund, the nerd. Dortmund however, decided to loan him out and guess where he’s gone? That’s right baby! Welcome in Victor Bejarano, whose nickname of “Scum Bastard” I have to remove. I’m resigned to Martin Soler joining a big European team so in comes Adolfo Arriaga to replace him from Club Leon. He’s a very good advanced forward and should pair up nicely with Rangel.
CONCACAF Champion’s League player registration rolls around and we are allowed to register 35 players. That’s it. No other rules. 35 players. Why can’t UEFA give me this kind of guidance? The Premier League registration is less than that! We are also playing in a competition called the “Leagues Cup” where we play a bunch of MLS and Mexican teams. North America is weird, man.
Even though the transfer deadline has passed, the game allows me to sign Andre on loan from Real Madrid. I’m somewhat confused. I probably need to read the fine print. Anyway, Andre is 33 years old but still good. Real paid £40M for him. His physical attributes are deteriorating but I’ve got him for one season and helps plug a gap in central midfield, where he’s better all round than Hezze. On his debut, against Austin FC in the “Leagues Cup”, whatever that is, he scores twice.
This is what happens every time we play someone from MLS. In the Leagues Cup (S) final we demolish Toronto 5-1. Adolfo Arriaga cooking their goose with five goals. He’s slotted nicely into the Soler role and is going to score stupid goals this season. The CONCACAF CL doesn’t start well. We beat Pachuca 1-0 but Victor Bejarano breaks his leg and is back off to Dortmund to treatment. He’d been ace in his games too. Right back Zacarias pulls a hammy in the same game and is out for a month.
We won the Leagues Cup following an edgy 2-1 win over Cruz Azul. During which several debatable offside decisions occur. It’s at this point that I realise we could win five trophies this season. I’m coming for you Bob Paisley! I’m coming for your number one spot! Next up is the Campeones Cup, a clash between the best team in Mexico and the top team from MLS. We thrash Toronto 5-0. That’s three trophies this season!
Or maybe not. We lose a few games in the league, including to Monarcas Morelia (???) before managing to lose 3-2 to Atletico Ottawa. THE FUCKIN CANADIAN TEAM BEAT US? Their best player, if you gave me him on a free transfer, I would refuse it. They are that awful. That’s how bad we were. Losing to that fucking shambles. Next match is against Puebla, and four of my players are on International duty. Why is there a fixture that clashes with a Mexico game? We win 3-1 anyway because most of the teams in this division SUCK.
Then, an actual problem. A real wrinkle in the plan. My goalkeeper, Lucas Martins, decides he wants to leave the club because Saudi teams want him. He’s unsettled and basically leaves in the middle of the Apertura. Why do Saudi teams not have transfer windows? Fucking bitches. My second keeper is bad. Luckily, we rarely face a mass of shots in games and I’m hoping he can get us through to the next transfer window, where I’ve lined up a keeper called Nicolas Russo from Real Sociedad to take over. However, we have no proper keeper for 2 months! The mid-season break is after the Apertura concludes. Our chances of winning it have decreased somewhat.
In comes the backup keeper and on his debut, he faces top of the table Cruz Azul. Cruz Azul have three shots on target. The game finishes 3-3. We’re in for a rollercoaster ride here boys. To be fair to the lad, only one of the shots went straight through him but it was the third one. Meanwhile that Atletico Ottawa loss means we have to draw with Atlanta United to qualify for the knock outs of the CONCACAF Champion’s League. Seeing as that’s the entire point of the save, we need to get our shit together. Luckily we are far better than Atlanta and keep them on the back foot throughout. They manage one shot on target, which our keeper lets in. 3-1 at the finish though, we move.
We get to halfway through the season and we’ve won everything. My board confidence? C. They’re disappointed we’ve not made the final of a competition that hasn’t started yet. Anyway, we make it to the final so they’re happy again. The final is supposed to happen before the mid-season transfer window but FM is so disorganised it doesn’t. Instead the transfer window opens the day of the first leg. So one of my players leaves outright. Although I can’t register anyone until January 1. So, I’m short a sub and my new goalie can’t play yet.
How’s the final? The scoreboard operator is kept BUSY. The second leg finished 2-2 so we have another trophy. That’s FOUR with Monterrey and we’ve only played half a season. I swear I’m not save scumming any of this. Monterrey are naturally that good without my tactical nous on top. We’re a shoo-in for the works. That is if I could see off all the European bids for my players in January. I spent the entire month rejecting bids. It was a barrage. Mostly from Benfica and Porto who seem to think my team is their personal shopping space. What really irked me was the load of bids that came in AFTER the Mexican deadline had passed. So, even if I wanted to sell players, I couldn’t replace them.
I did end up losing a couple of players. Caique Capretz had spent all season improving and looked like he was going to start in central midfield in the Clausura but Benfica poached him for £15M. Pablo Hernandez, wonder kid winger, went to Arsenal for £8M. Arsenal also poached Mario Lopez, a wonderkid (ish) winger for £9M. Replacing Capretz is Bruno Storti, a wonderkid central midfielder from nearest rivals Cruz Azul. Ulises Rios joins us to give striking depth and we also added Luis Torres on loan because of left back issues. I think I already mentioned that Nicolas Russo is taking over in goal, a £2M signing from Real Sociedad. I spend the rest of the window rejecting bids for, basically, everyone. Three of my four defenders, my wonderkid right back (who Man Utd want but won’t pay for) and my wingers. I don’t think I’ve ever had to knock back so many bids during a January window before. I assume Mexico is a shopping mall for European teams on this save, as a load of Mexican players are in Europe. I had one at Newcastle!
We are about 8 games into the Clausura and Arriaga now has 40 league goals this season. To put that into perspective; the guy with the second largest number of league goals has 18, the record for goals in a season is 26. If I get the right player in this formation, he scores bucket loads of goals. Arriaga is a perfect fit. Imagine if Martin Soler had stayed? He’d probably have 50+ by now. February swiftly rolls around and we face Montreal in the CONCACAF Champion’s League R16. Their best player is one Keesean Ferdinand, who has 50 caps for Canada and a massive afro. He plays at centre back and would not get anywhere near my team. My expectations are to roll this team over and stomp them into oblivion.
Yeah, that ought to do it.
MLS in the mud. Looking forward to El Salvador’s league passing them next season. After a 3-1 away win against Montreal we move on, 10-1 on aggregate, to the quarters. I get my youth intake and HOLY FUCK.
This guy is awesome. He’s 15 and could easily play for the first XI now. His physicals need a bit of work, but he’s got high potential too. The best player I’ve had in a youth intake prior to this is Zoltan Bognar, who currently plays for Benfica. An absolute legend of the save.
The draw is made for the CONCACAF CL and we’ve got Motagua. Yeah, I didn’t know who that was either. They’re from Honduras and dumped Portland Timbers out in the last round. I looked at their squad and every single player is greyed out. I’m not saying this is the easiest Champion’s League to win but…no, wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying. The semi-finals will be all Mexican teams. We beat Motagua 5-0 in the first leg. De Luna scores a hattrick, one of which is a ridiculous free kick from way down town*. We go on to win away, as well, finishing the tie with an 11-1 advantage over two legs.
*This ends up our goal of the season. Well deserved.
As forecast the semis are all Mexican teams. We play Puebla. Club America has Quaretaro. Cruz Azul KO’d on pens by Puebla. I’d rather play Puebla. It means we don’t have a difficult game until the final as Club America are currently top of the Clausura. Arriaga now has 66 goals in all competitions and the European teams are starting to sniff around! The record for league goals in a season was 26 before he turned up. He’s scored 46 league goals this season. He might double the record. Sal de Luna has 22 assists. The previous record was 16.
Semi-finals of the Champion’s League and we stuff Puebla 3-1 in the home leg. It was very one-sided. Puebla scored from their only highlight, which made it 2-1. Then we fluked a third when Andre Santos’ long range effort hit Arriaga and deflected into the other side of the goal. Hector Rangel scored two and we should have won by more. I’m not too worried about the second leg but it should be already out of sight.
Puebla roll over and play dead at home. Hector Rangel has a hatty in 21 minutes. We run out 8-3 on aggregate winners. Puebla’s second half comeback allowed me to test out a sunken midfield, which worked quite effectively in creating a barrier to stop lesser teams coming at me late on. While not impeding on our attacking prowess as Bejarano crossed for Arriaga to score with us in full on defensive shield formation. TO THE FINAL! Club America, arguably the best of the rest in Mexico, await us.
As a comparison to the starting XI at start of season. You can see that Zacarias, Trujillo and Santos are the only survivors. Green lines everywhere too. Hooray!
Arriaga now has SEVENTY-TWO GOALS this season. SEVENTY-TWO! The entire rest of his career he has 61 goals.
So, here it is; Champion’s League final. Against Club America. The only other good team in CONCACAF. I was hoping they’d get knocked out, but they didn’t. It’s a tough game. They have wily creative players like Adolfo Manon, who I debate about man marking. They get a bit lucky and bust up our offside trap. A long ball goes clean over the top and Claudio Echeverri scores. 1-0 Club America. We could have done better there. We always play a high line to squeeze space but I should have switched when I noticed how many times the keeper was punting it long. I just figured our central defenders could deal with it.
Right before half time Sal de Luna goes on a run, and over runs it and loses the ball, only for it to break for Andre Santos. He has the piece of mind to square it to the runner; Victor Bejarano and he fires it in off the upright. 1-1. Right on half time. Ideal. Second half gets underway and we catch them cold. Opening 10 minutes is all us and Hector Rangel turns a tricky Bejarano cross, which is behind him, into the net. 2-1 Monterrey! Right, let’s sink the midfield. Both Andre’s come off. Hezze and Avila repeat their performance against Puebla and block the mass of attacking midfield runs. The last 20 minutes of the game nothing happens. Which is ideal. WE WIN THE CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE. Three out of five down.
In more good news, I go and look at the table in England and Newcastle have won the league. Yes lads!
In yet more good news, we go on to beat Club America again to win the Liga MX Clausura. Which means we’ve won SIX trophies this season. Both halves of the league, the CONCACAF Champion’s League, Campeones Cup, Leagues Cup and Mexican Champions Trophy. SIX. That’ll do, pig, that’ll do.
How many goals did Arriaga get? 79. Seventy-nine.
Elsewhere, the wildest title win of the save so far goes to Toulouse, who win their first ever Ligue 1.
Bayer Leverkusen won the Bundesliga, which means the Big 5 league winners were Newcastle, Leverkusen, Real Madrid, Juventus and Toulouse. Also, QPR got Champion’s League for finishing fourth. Before we head out, it’s time to update the scoresheet at the bottom of the page! Three down, two to go. Where’s next?
Asian Champions League: Champions (Brisbane Roar, 2028)
African Champions League: N/A
UEFA Champions League: Champions (Newcastle, 2034)
North American Champions League: Champions (CF Monterrey, 2035)
Copa Libertadores: N/A