Monday, January 28, 2008

Birth of a tournament

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?


Jesse Erdmann said...

I'm also curious about the Canadian entrant. Is TFC eligible, or do they only fall under the MLS umbrella? What about the Canadian USL teams? Or is it just a CPSL entrant?

L.B. said...

Good point. The release says USA teams which I changed to MLS. TFC is probably the best Canadian club, no?

East River said...

How does the Guat league get one team bypassed into the quarters and not give a bypass to one of the Carribean teams?

And what about the Canadian team? Will TFC have to play a qualifing tourney against the USL Canadian teams? Perhaps a Canadian Open Cup is in the works? Though I understand PR Islanders are pretty much an automatic bid to the CCC Carribean Football Union tourney every year(this is the tourney that Carribean clubs use to get into CCC Champions Cup).

Anyway, this CCC's answer to Superliga and the growing desire to just do Copa Libteratores(sp) like tourney. But with the weakness of so many CCC leagues its likely to never have the kind of respect its big brothers have in other regions.

Jesse Erdmann said...

> TFC is probably the best Canadian
> club, no?

Indubitably. Just don't mention that to any Montreal Impact fans. There's one or two of them that goes absolutely ape-shizzle when anyone says there is a clear distinction in quality between MLS and USL D1.

Pablo Chicago said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CACuzcatlan said...

Crazy ole Captain Jack and his money. There is no need for this tournament. The CCC was fine for our Confederation. The real prize is getting to the Club World Cup for a guaranteed $1 million, and possibly more.

tsingletonvt said...

Being a Revs fan I can imagine a way that the Galaxy ends up in this tournament. It goes like this:

The Revs continue to lose players in the pre-season (Dorman, Noonan, Riley, John?, Twellman?) and do not sign any replacements of the same caliber. Maybe the long term injury bug bites in training camp or early in the season? This leaves the depleted and not-so-deep Revs with an even thinner roster. Kraft offers the Revs spot to LA for money (not allocations), future considerations, or draft picks.

Anonymous said...

The three Canadian teams, Montreal Impact, Vancouver Whitecapes, Toronto FC, will play a Canadian Open Cup to qualify for this tournament.

Anonymous said...

The fact that 2 USL teams in Canada will compete for a spot with an expansion Canadian MLS team is all you need to know about the quality of this tournament.

This tourney only helps the minnows.

JT (Chicago) said...

LB, any thoughts on how Atlas will do tonight in Copa Libertadores vs La Paz?

papa bear said...

how can anything that improves the quality of the region (which this will undoubtedly do) be a bad thing?
If we are able to approach the level of CONMEBOL on the club level in CONCACAF the national team will improve which is kinda what we are all hoping for right?
It's kinda the reason Mexican teams waste time/money playing in a tournament that has no way of ending with the ultimate prize for them afterall. (Libertadores being the tourney & Club WC being the prize of course)

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