The inaugural CONCACAF Champions League is in the books and to nobody’s surprise it was won by a Mexican side, Atlante. The club which struggled to attract fans in Mexico City until moving to Cancun less than two years ago now represents the region at the FIFA Club World Cup.
But the tournament has proven to have many flaws. Most notably the over representation from a league whose last CONCACAF finalist was nine years ago and the involvement of second division sides in the tournament. A tournament that features as many automatic entries from MLS as the FMF can only be said to completely lack credibility.
My opinion which truthfully doesn’t matter in this debate is that every single Mexican First Division side would compete to win MLS Cup. Even Nexaca or Indios this season would be among the handful of strongest MLS teams. So given that opinion, I obviously do not believe the two leagues should be equally represented in the Continental Championship.
MLS fans often make assumptions about Mexican Football based on wishful thinking or simple ignorance. I’ve read many an article claiming the leagues are comparable in quality. As I have stated before I am a strong supporter of MLS but the hubris some supporters insist on showing with comparisons which lack credibility or any sort of critical eye on their favored product are simply laughable.
Most MLS fans don’t watch Mexican Football regularly (I on the other hand try to catch at least two FMF games each weekend and am looking forward to the Clausura playoffs which start this week) and base their analysis of the league on what English language European or MLS oriented journalists write about it.
It is really difficult to describe the gap between the two leagues because I think it is possibly as wide as the perceived gulf between MLS and many second tier European leagues. MLS fans need not despair: The league is what it is, the only live first division football the world’s most powerful and important nation can provide. But to continue to make silly comparisons between an obvious third tier league and those that are first and second tier leagues undermines the cause of promoting the sport and the American game.
This all having been said, MLS deserves some guarantees from CONCACAF going forward. This means two guaranteed slots for US based MLS teams and a guaranteed spot for Toronto FC and then beginning in 2011, a playoff between TFC and the Whitecaps. USL-1 sides would be ineligible for these slots and would be forced to qualify through a play off with the 3rd place Honduran team before the qualifying round. The reigning USL-1 Champion (this year, Vancouver) would participate in that play in game.
Puerto Rico would still be able to qualify and compete in the CCL via the CFU Caribbean Club Cup. The Islanders are in the semi-finals to be held this weekend and a win there would put them back in the tournament. Canada’s spot should be given automatically to Toronto FC for the 2009-10, and 2010-11 tournaments. Beginning in 2011 a playoff should occur between TFC and the Whitecaps, with Montreal’s potential MLS entry joining the fray in the future.