Atlante’s victory in the CONCACAF Champions League and the start of the playoffs should have been the biggest stories of the last week in Mexican Football. But sadly they were not because of the discrimination Mexican clubs faced in the knock out stages of the Copa Libertadoras, eventually being forced to withdraw from the tournament. The issue was supposedly the Swine Flu, but perhaps it really was the reluctance of South American sides to face off with teams from outside their Confederation whose league is one of the best on the planet.
Both San Luis and Chivas had done a credible job to reach the knock out stages but COMENBOL very unprofessionally allowed its member nations to justify the use of paranoia when refusing to host Mexican teams. Given that Mexico is not a member of COMENBOL but has the richest domestic league in the Americas and thus bought its way into South American club competitions it comes as no surprise that the member nations of the Confederation used the opportunity to make the FMF feel unwelcome.
Thanks to this action, Mexico has withdrawn from all COMNEBOL competitions. Theoretically if the FMF keeps its word that means no Copa America for El Tri in 2011. Mexico is the only nation to have advanced out of the group stage of every Copa America since 1993. This also means no Mexican teams in the upcoming Copa Sudamericana which Pachuca won in 2005.
Atlante has qualified for the World Club Championship with its CONCACAF CL triumph. Justice would be served in my humble opinion if Atlanta faced the Copa Lib. champions in Dubai and beat them.
But in the meantime CONCACAF and MLS both have big opportunities with the decision of Mexico to withdraw from South American competitions. CONCACAF’s Champions League has to be considered a bit of a joke for allowing as many MLS teams directly into the qualifying round as FMF sides, considering no MLS team has made a CONCACAF final since 20o0 and no CONCACAF final has been staged without an FMF representative since that same year.
CONCACAF should take two spots away from MLS for the 2009-2010 Champions League, awarding one to the Interliga winner (a competition staged by MLS/SUM) and the other to the winner of Superliga which could be an MLS side. This could bring as many as six FMF teams to the 24 team competition and will quite frankly help CONCACAF take advantage of having the undivided loyalty of one of the best football leagues in the world.
MLS can also take advantage of the situation by making Superliga meaningful in cooperation with CONCACAF. While MLS surely does not want to give up two spots in the CL, the confederation should put its foot down after MLS teams won just two matches while losing eleven in the recently completed Champions League. By contrast, USL-1 the second division in the United States had two entrants that won eleven champions league matches between them. USL-1 deserves at the very least a chance to have its champions play into the competition, but we’ll save that debate for another day.
Furthermore, MLS can foster closer ties with the FMF by potentially expanding Superliga or even creating a SUM sponsored event that brings South Americans best club sides to US soil to face Mexico’s best, since they will no longer face off in the Libertadoras or Sudamericana. SUM has been proactive and aggressive previously in taking advantage of the massive fan base Mexican Football has in the United States.
The Swine Flu provides an opportunity for MLS and for CONCACAF. Now the question is whether they will take it?