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CONCACAF Champions League

Hubris: August 27, 2008

The CONCACAF Champions league was built up as Major League Soccer’s opportunity to show how well it sides perform while in season. The complaint about the now retired Champions Cup was that it was played during the MLS preseason. However, despite a flattering scoreline the first match of the Champions League showed how outclassed outside the United States MLS sides often times are, even though New England is arguably the best MLS team around. While Chivas USA certainly played a better match down in Panama than New England did in Port of Spain the result was the same: MLS lost. Now based on these results, it is very likely both MLS teams will advance to the group stage due to having home legs upcoming. Yet the point cannot be lost: unlike Mexican or Costa Rican sides, MLS teams cannot get results or even dictate play away from home.

The laundry list of excuses are already being touted: That MLS squads don’t have depth because of the roster limits, that teams are suffering from fixture congestion and that the focus right now remains on the MLS season. These excuses are to me worthless since the league itself has made such a production of touting its improvement when compared with football in other parts of the region. I have said this before and will say this again: I believe MLS circa 1998 had more quality than MLS circa 2008. Sure the talent is more evenly distributed now throughout the league, but the top teams and in fact the top players in league were more impressive ten years ago than they are today. The results MLS teams achieved versus sides from abroad in those days even in friendlies were quite frankly more impressive than today.

All of this really doesn’t matter if it weren’t for MLS’ own arrogance in promoting its product. As the defeat of Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship at the hands of the then last place USL-1 side demonstrated, that despite an increase in exposure due to a surge in popularity for football in North America, MLS’ product continues to be inferior to just about any other league available on American television. David Beckham’s arrival stateside gave MLS the impetus to over promote its own virtues.

MLS does not need to be the most competitive or attractive league in the world. As I have said before the old MLS that focused on player development and increasing access to the game was a preferable model to today’s league. But as the league has advanced an agenda of becoming a super league in North America, its impact on the US National Team as discussed a few weeks back has been problematic as is the seeming desire of the league to promote its own tournament which it runs, Superliga as some sort of major international event. This is because MLS receives the profits from the event via its marketing arm, SUM and all the matches are played on American soil. What’s even worse is in order to tout its own importance and value in footballing circles the league continues to boast about its competitiveness and quality when almost all visible evidence refutes these claims.

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  1. Joseph T.

    August 27, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Well Kartik, I’ve called you out before.

    When you said MLS had regressed since 1998 I said you were wrong.

    When you said USL teams could compete in MLS I said you were wrong.

    When you said the Costa Rican league was better than MLS I said you were wrong.

    When you blamed MLS for the demise of the US Olympic Team I said you were wrong.

    After the two matches last night, I believe in hindsight you may have been actually at least partially correct about every single issue above. The displays last night were so pathetic and so revealing as to the true depth and quality of the league I’ve come to the conclusion you know a lot more than I have given you credit for.

    Keep up the good work, Kartik.

  2. JRT

    August 27, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Honestly why would anyone expect any different.

    While the top MLS players are of the same quality as Mexican or even many european leagues the depth is lacking and this late in an MLS season fatigue and injuries weigh down the teams.

    Yet we continue to expand adding a team a year?

    Sounds like MLS is becoming an investment scam from my vantage point

  3. eplnfl

    August 27, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Could there have been a worse time for this tournament to start. Frankly, any MLS side that care about the CCL is out of their mind! With the MLS teams getting ready for the play-off runs, to spend any time thinking about CCL is simply shooting yourself in the foot. Especially if you were involved in the Superliga.

    MLS as you have pointed out before has to determine where and when they want to play their non-league games. It will be a hit or miss process, but to start the CCL just as the Olympic games end and the European leagues are starting, including early round Champion League games, and WC qualifying is taking place is a train wreck!

    As a fan I’m still getting over getting up early to watch games from China, then watching games from the EPL, and then trying to go out and see my home town Chicago Fire, and keeping up with the 1st place Chicago Cubs, looking in on the US Open, the historic Democratic Convention, and yes, NCAA football is starting, and the NFL is ready to kick-off HELP! Who could care about the CCL.

  4. Walter

    August 27, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Often times I do not like what you have to say, but as is regularly the case in the long run you are proven correct. Whatever happens in the second leg your piece many months ago about expansion and poor coaching weighing down MLS and making it less and less competitive was seen as alarmist but proved to be true.

    Keep in mind Joe Public finished I believe 3rd in Carribean qualifying and Tauro did not win the panamanian league.

    Pathetic results to say the least and a well deserved “I told you so” from you.

  5. Armand

    August 27, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Why is it when you write crazy headlines like this I find myself agreeing with you after reading the article? I think this is your biggest problem. You use sensational headlines to get everyone to read but then present reasoned and thoughtful arguments that really do not compliment the over the top headline. Good piece but change the title!

  6. Phillip

    August 27, 2008 at 12:27 am

    New England is not in bad shape, as I believe they will still go through.

    Chivas USA has no shot at going through.

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