MLS Teams Need To Take CONCACAF Champions League Seriously


The group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League is set to start this coming week, and a question on the minds of many MLS fans is: “Will the MLS clubs involved in this competition step up and take it seriously?” After RedBull New York and Toronto FC got knocked out during the qualifying rounds, meaning that the Houston Dynamo, DC United, and the Columbus Crew are the only MLS sides remaining in the second season of the CONCACAF Champions League, meaning that Group D has no representative from MLS. Meanwhile, Mexico’s Primera Division is represented in all four groups by Cruz Azul, Pachuca, Pumas, and Toluca.

In last year’s inaugural CONCACAF Champions League, only two MLS teams were in the group stage since Chivas USA and New England Revolution were eliminated in the preliminary qualifying round, but only one MLS side managed to break out of the group stage, the Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo went on to lose to Atlante, the eventual winner, in the quarterfinals this past winter. Meanwhile, both USL-1 sides involved in the CCL advanced beyond the group stage with the Puerto Rico Islanders making it all the way to the semifinals.

Although the winner of this competition earns a berth in the FIFA World Club Cup, last year it seemed that most of the MLS sides involved in the CCL viewed the competition as a nuisance. In one way, that point of view was understandable since several of the teams involved were dealing with mounting injuries and fixture congestion. Additionally, the CCL began as the MLS teams were making the final push to make it into the MLS playoffs. However, the CCL is still a major competition offering MLS clubs an opportunity to test themselves against clubs from other leagues.

At last year’s MLS Cup, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced one change that would make the season easier on teams participating in the CCL – these teams would not participate in SuperLiga, the SUM competition between MLS and Mexican teams. As to whether this change will have an impact is yet to be seen, but during this year’s preliminary round the two MLS teams showed more fight then their predecessors did last year. Considering the poor form that New York has been in all season, it’s not surprising that they got knocked out of the CCL.

As a follower and fan of MLS, it would be good to see the MLS clubs advance farther in the CCL this time around. One important step in improving the MLS and its standing in the world is success in international club competitions such as the CCL. While the quality of the clubs from Central America and the Caribbean varies, the Mexican clubs are always strong and pose crucial tests to the MLS sides. The Primera Division is inarguably the best league in North America and arguably better then many leagues in Europe. Until the Dynamo drew against Pumas, no MLS team had ever earned a point playing a Mexican club in Mexico City. The more MLS teams are able to beat Mexican teams in this competition, especially in Mexico, the more respect MLS will earn from football fans and commentators.

If MLS teams take the CCL seriously and play hard, but still fall short in this competition, it will be very important to analyze the reasons for this lack of success. Was lack of depth, lack of talent, lack of proper coaching skills? The league and the fans and the media can learn from these issues and find ways to correct the problems. But, if the MLS teams fail due to lack of interest in the competition, then we learn nothing and the teams should be roundly criticized for failing to take advantage of the CCL and the opportunities it affords MLS.

This week’s CCL Matches:

Tuesday August 18, 2009 –

Columbus Crew v. Puerto Rico Islanders
CD Marathon v. DC United
Pumas UNAM v. CSD Comunicaciones

Wednesday August 19, 2009 –

Houston Dynamo v. Metapan
Dep. Arabe Unido v. Pachuca
Cruz Azul v. Saprissa

Thursday August 20, 2009 –

San Juan Jabloteh v. Toluca
Real CD Espana v. W Connection FC

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8 Responses to MLS Teams Need To Take CONCACAF Champions League Seriously

  1. Patrick says:

    It seems to me that DC United maybe taking the open cup and CCL more seriously than they are taking the MLS season. I’m excited about the Open Cup final and excited to see DC United do well in CCL. They have the depth. They kept some good players off the field against Toronto. I think a actually enjoy the competitions outside of league play better. VAMOS DCU!

    • Rex says:

      I have a lot of respect for the DC organization. They promote entertaining soccer as well as promote winning in tournaments like the Open Cup and CCL.

  2. Daniel Feuerstein says:

    Bryan. RBNY played with a purpose both on the road and at home against W. Connection of Trinidad, but their problem was no Angel who suffered a concussion and they had a major brain fart that gifted the visitors a second goal as a draw was going to be enough to advance them into the group stage.

    Just another brain fart to officially end their season, when they couldn’t salvage it.

  3. todd says:

    Houston was able to make it to the knock-out round last year because they had a reserve side, one that was playing matches regularly, that they were able to call in people from. Granted, like last year, with the knock-out stages being in MLS’s pre-season, we’ll end up facing a Mexican side with a newly-dilapidated team (no DeRo last year… try no Clark/Holden next) that won’t hit stride til june.

  4. Rex says:

    Amen, Brian! If I hear Domenic Kinnear say, “Our focus every year to to win the MLS Cup.” again and blow off the CCL i’ll be pissed. I want more starters playing in the CCL.

    Although, it could be said that if Kinnear hadn’t played reserves like Holden, Cameron, and Chabala so much in CCL and Superliga there is no way they would have been contributors this year, moreless allstars (as the case for Holden and Cameron).

    How bout the Dynamo go hard now and not just advance, but WIN their group. That way they will have an easier draw for the quarters when the boys wont be in top form.

  5. Lee14 says:

    United plays the team they beat in 1998 to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup at home next Tuesday, Toluca. Should be a fun competition. The playin games were fun to watch vs Firpo.

  6. jomario says:

    I know I might be in the minority, but the lack of effort and interest in the CCL is why I’m no longer an ardent MLS fan. I wish the league well for the sake of the game in this country, but I’m no longer interested in supporting a league that is so disinterested in international competition that they are regularly losing to semi pro teams. MLS is missing the boat if they think fans don’t care about this competition. Remember that 400K watched the US Mexico game on MUN2 but over 4 million watched in on Telemundo. This is a global game and if you don’t show up for global competitions then you have every right to have your league be considered bush league, irrelevant and second rate!

    • Mexico is better says:

      You’re right, the league is definitely bush league. CONCACAF play is the true measure of a league, and it shows that the US league is worthless. It’s not worth my time, and shouldn’t be for any real football fan.

      The Mexican league is superior and deserving of our fandom.

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