How the Crew are preparing for the Champions Cup Final

The Columbus Crew will confront Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions Cup Final at Estadio Hidalgo in Mexico, nestled 8,000 feet above sea level, this Saturday night. The Black & Gold have devised a plan to mitigate the altitude disadvantage.
Pachuca v Atlas - Final Torneo Grita Mexico C22 Liga MX
Pachuca v Atlas - Final Torneo Grita Mexico C22 Liga MX / Hector Vivas/GettyImages

The Champions Cup Final is just around the corner, and Wilfried Nancy’s Columbus Crew are in peak condition, ready to overcome the challenge of playing in the high altitude of the Mexican state of Hidalgo.

To put this in perspective, the highest elevation the Crew has encountered in MLS is in Colorado and Salt Lake City, both at no more than 4,500 feet above sea level. In contrast, Columbus sits at a comfortable 800 feet. This Saturday’s match will be a significant altitude jump for the Crew. With such a daunting change ahead, the team is taking drastic measures to prepare. Every player has had an altitude tent installed in their homes and is encouraged to spend as much time in it as possible.

The tents limit the amount of oxygen available to the body, helping athletes acclimate to simulated high altitudes through normobaric hypoxia exposure, thereby increasing blood oxygen saturation. In addition to using the tents, Columbus players are continuing their standard training regimen with altitude masks, which serve the same purpose by forcing the body to adapt to reduced oxygen levels.

Cucho Hernandez is back!

The biggest news of all is that star forward Cucho Hernandez is back from injury and has trained normally, according to Nancy. He has done so well that the Colombian has taken part in the altitude training both with the team and at home.

Before this week, Hernandez had been limited in practice and missed the Crew's last three matches due to a back injury. Nancy confirmed last week that the club was monitoring the injury on a "week-to-week" basis. Despite the Crew winning all three of the previous games without Cucho, it’s still essential to have a player of his quality in the squad, whether he’s good to start or as an early substitute.

This match is a one-off event, similar to the setup of the 2023 MLS Cup final, where the best-performing team in the tournament is awarded hosting rights. This marks the club's first-ever appearance in the tournament final. A victory would also secure Columbus a spot in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup against the best clubs around the globe.