First, there was InterLiga. Then SuperLiga. Now, there's ChampionsLiga.
Okay, well, that's a stretch. The CONCACAF Champions League carries no such -Liga name. But it is another in what is suddenly a long line of tournaments for MLS teams to participate. (UI'm going to look at this tournament from an MLS point of view, for the time being, though InterLiga isn't open to MLS teams)
First, the details:
- 24 participating teams; 4 MLS, 4 Mexico, 3 Caribbean, 2 Costa Rica, 2 El Salvador, 2 Guatemala, 2 Honduras, 2 Panama, 1 Canada, 1 Belize, 1 Nicaragua
- 8 clubs will be seeded and need not qualify: 2 Mexico, 2 MLS, 1 Costa Rica, 1 Honduras, 1 Guatemala, 1 El Salvador
- remaining 16 clubs will play home-and-away series to fill remaining slots
- Preliminary round will be played late August, early September
- Group stage will consist of three home games and three away games for every participating team
- Group stage will be played in September and October
- Quarterfinals will be played in February and March
- Semifinals will be played in March and April
- Final (two legs) will be played in April
Now that we have the details out of the way, my initial thoughts are regarding the existence of this tournament. Is it necessary to expand the CONCACAF Champions Cup to include a group stage? Is there really a demand from CONCACAF soccer fans for such a tournament? What's the incentive for teams to play in this tournament? I haven't seen any figures as far as purse money involved. Prestige is built up over time so starting a tournament like this won't bring any prestige, regardless if you call it the regional champions league or not. My guess is participating MLS teams will still put the focus on winning MLS Cup, not necessarily this tournament.
And as far as the calendar itself goes, I can't understand why you would have the group stage end the final week of October and force teams to wait nearly four months to play the quarterfinals. MLS teams change a lot over the course of an offseason. You could have an entirely different team compete in Match Day 6 and the quarterfinals first leg, provided an MLS team gets that far.
I haven't seen it confirmed but the MLS teams will probably be the Houston, DC, New England and Chivas USA. Incidentally, if the Galaxy is involved in the inaugural edition of the tournament in any way, I will quit my job in protest. Or at least I'll strongly consider quitting.
Anyway, my initial fears over this tournament is the imbalance in CONCACAF shining through. Any time you hold a CONCACAF party, you get a couple of strong participants rounded out by a bunch of weak sisters. Will we see lopsided results and a quarterfinal round composed exclusively of MLS and Mexican teams?
And why did Costa Rica only get two slots? Saprissa won the CCC a few years ago. MLS hasn't had a team win a CCC since 2001 yet they get four? Will that change in the future?
For now, it seems that this tournament has more questions than answers, at least to me. What do you think?