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MLS and International Competitions: You Be the Judge

0729matador2 MLS and International Competitions: You Be the Judge

It was a Mexican Superstar, Luis Hernandez that led an MLS side to its last Continental Triumph

As has been discussed recently on the American Soccer Show and on this website we’ve been fed what amounts to league driven propaganda (presumably to attract new investors to the game which is a good thing) that the standard of MLS is consistently improving. With the two top MLS sides facing down the barrel of a gun at elimination at the semi-final stage of the CONCACAF Champions Cup, let’s look at MLS’ history participating in competitions with teams from other leagues outside the United States in FIFA/Federation sanctioned events. (ie., non SUM created and marketed events)

1997

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS CUP

DC United…………………Lost in semifinals to LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy………………..Lost in final to Cruz Azul

1998

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Colorado Rapids………………Lost in qualifying round to Leon

DC United………………..Defeated Toluca in final

Inter-American Cup

DC United……………….Defeated Vasco De Gama in final

1999

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Chicago Fire…………………..Lost to Alajuelenese in Semi-finals

DC United……………………..Lost to Nexaca in the Semi-finals

LA Galaxy…………………….Lost in qualifying round to Nexaca

2000

CONCACAF Champions Cup

DC United…………………….Lost in semi-finals to LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy……………..Defeated Olimpia in the final

Club World Cup

LA Galaxy…………………..Drawn to face Real Madrid in first round…………..event canceled.

2001

CONCACAF Giants Cup

Columbus Crew…………..Lost to Saprissa in Quarterfinals

DC United…………………..Lost in final to Club America

* The Giants Cup replaced the Champions Cup in 2001 and its qualification was based on average attendance per match, thus Columbus qualified ahead of potentially more competitive sides like the LA Galaxy or the Metrostars. I look back at 2001 as a year I believe an MLS team could have won the Champions Cup, and the last season before the mass exodus of top American players from MLS to Europe really began.

Copa Meraconorte

KC Wizards………………..Eliminated at Group Stage (4 pts, 1 W 1 D 4L)

Metrostars…………………Eliminated at Group Stage (9pts, 3 W 3L)

2002

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Chicago Fire……………….Eliminated in Quarterfinals by Moriela

DC United………………….Eliminated in Round of 16 by Alajuelenese

KC Wizards………………..Eliminated in Semifinals by Moriela

San Jose Earthquakes..Eliminated in Quarterfinals by Pachuca

2003

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Columbus Crew………..Lost to Morelia in the Quarterfinals

LA Galaxy………………..Lost to Nexaca in the Quarterfinals

New England Revs……Lost to Alajuelenese in the Round of 16

San Jose Earthquakes.. Lost to Municipal in the Round of 16

2004

CONCACAF Champions Cup

Chicago Fire……………….Lost to Saprissa in the Semi-finals

SJ Earthquakes………….Lost to Alajuelenese in the Quarterfinals

2005

CONCACAF Champions Cup

DC United………………….Lost to Pumas in Semifinals

KC Wizards………………..Lost to Saprissa in the Quarterfinals

Copa Sudamericana

DC United………………….Lost to Universidad Catolica in Round of 16

2006

CONCACAF Champions Cup

LA Galaxy………………..Lost to Saprissa in Quarterfinals

NE Revs…………………..Lost to Alajuelenese in Quarterfinals

2007

CONCACAF Champions Cup

DC United……………….Lost to Guadalajara in Semi-finals

Houston Dynamo……Lost to Pachuca in Semi-finals

Copa Sudamericana 

DC United……………..Lost to Guadalajara in Round of 16

—————————————————————————————————————————

While MLS’ performances in the Champions Cup the past two years has certainly exceeded the performances of the previous half dozen years, a gap still without question exists between the Mexican League and MLS. Mexican League teams can go to the Copa Libertadores and hold their own and also have been very successful in the Copa Sudamericana with Pachuca winning the 2006 title. With all of the recent conversation about MLS entering the Copa Libertadores and the new CONCACAF Champions League beginning play this year, MLS has a better chance of having its top teams reinforce a notion abroad that MLS is not up to the same standard as the leagues many American fans like to compare it with. Based on these results the Costa Rican league is far superior to MLS: However, Costa Rica’s league generally only has two or three strong teams, while every MLS non-expansion team is roughly of the same caliber when it comes to comparing them to teams in other leagues.

The bottom line is regardless of the bluster we hear from some fans and the opinions of respected soccer journalists like my co-host Dave Denholm, the results for MLS in competitive matches against squads from other leagues outside the U.S. had in many ways gotten progressively worse throughout the leagues history until 2006, and is only now beginning to recover.   However, if you have a different take on the above detailed results, please feel free to comment and take me to task for this posting!

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

10 Responses to MLS and International Competitions: You Be the Judge

  1. Brits Should Not Run American Football says:

    While theoretically correct posts like this are nothing but fodder for the ex-pats in our soccer press that bash MLS, and the British media itself looking to take any shot at our league while ignoring their leagues long term troubles in UEFA competitions.

  2. Beau Dure says:

    Let’s look at the venues …

    1998 CONCACAF Champions Cup: Washington, D.C.

    1998 Interamerican Cup: Washington and Fort Lauderdale

    2000 (held in 2001) CONCACAF Champions Cup: Fullerton and Los Angeles

    Since then, the CONCACAF tournament has had two-leg home-and-away series, and MLS teams simply haven’t been able to win in Mexico or at Saprissa.

    Some of that is surely because of the salary cap and parity, which Costa Rica doesn’t have. Maybe some is a smaller talent pool as compared to Mexico.

  3. Ray says:

    Yeah but to the above poster some real issues. MLS teams today I believe would not win a competition held entirely on US soil as those teams did: actually Superliga last year was proof of that.

    In addition, in those days MLS was able to win some games abroad: the Metrostars beat a few teams including I believe a Mexican team in Columbia during the Copa Mercanorte, and DC famously beat Spurs in London. sure, it was a Charity match but do you honestly think any current MLS side would even play any EPL side save Derby within two goals on British soil?

    I unfortunately have to agree with the whole premise of this post. This is because of the erosion of AMERICAN talent from the league. Far fewer Americans of stature play these days in MLS.
    In the 1998 and 2002 World Cups the vast majority of the US team had played in MLS within the previous two seasons. But as we approach 2010, chances are very few of the members of the squad will fit that criteria. No amount of propaganda from the league office, or purchasing of overage marketing tools or cheap foreigners (who are cheap for a good reason) will erase that reality.

    We must accept this fact and deal with the consequences. As much as you talk about this Kartik, you’ve offered no solutions other than to say MLS isn’t as good as it used to be. To many of us who have followed the league from the beginning that is painfully obvious, but what’s your solution? Simply pouring Gasoline on a raging fire?

  4. Beau Dure says:

    In a charity match? An MLS team in peak form against a mid-table EPL team not taking it too seriously? Sure, that could happen.

    I’m not sure how seriously other teams took the Merconorte. That was an oddball tournament, to say the least. At some point, teams get Copa-ed out.

    The SuperLiga was odd, too. Last summer, those were the only games the Galaxy could win.

    But the D.C. case is the most relevant. The early D.C. United and L.A. Galaxy teams were indeed the best the league has seen. But there’s no way to build a team like that today because (A) other team’s front offices are generally smarter (I know, I know, insert jokes about your least favorite GM here) and (B) the salary cap would force such a team to be dismantled. You don’t see many cap-related trades these days because teams plan for it.

    Which means you can’t really tell much about the quality of the league from these competitions. Will Saprissa beat Houston? Probably. Would Toronto FC clean up against the bottom team in Costa Rica? Probably.

    And to get back to the point you’re really making here — would today’s Toronto FC beat a last-place team from 1997? Absolutely. It’d be a thrashing.

  5. Kartik says:

    Beau Dure,

    The last post was so good I am going to read it on the air this next week. Seriously, it hit the point perfectly.

  6. Joe says:

    This is a good debate. I happen to agree with the above sentiment that the best teams in the league in the early days were better than today but the worst teams are much better today than they were then.

  7. Beau Dure says:

    Thanks all. I understand the concern about MLS in international play — I know it’s something the league office thinks about as well, but they’re balancing that against the need to let all 14, 15, 16 MLS teams believe they have a chance to win the league.

  8. Berlin says:

    Truth is hard to hear, but you make a great point. I hope the Dynamo can prove you wrong…DC, not so much.

  9. Phillip says:

    Money.

  10. JustinR says:

    Agreed, this all comes down to money. You get what you pay for, and at 2 and a half million, the product on the field is not very good. Sure you will find a few gems like De Rosario, Emilio and Toja, but the depth on these rosters is bad. The standard of play in the MLS is now where near the Mexican league. I think it will be, but not until we can afford to pay a complete roster.

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