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Dynamo Show How it is done: Join Impact and Islanders in CONCACAF Quarters.


Brian Ching’s header last night sent the Dynamo through to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. For all the criticisms of this tournament by MLS apologists, the event has produced from my vantage point much more entertaining football than MLS itself, and the Dyanmo who are a class organization whose goal is to collect silverware took the event seriously and it has paid off.

The irony is that Don Garber seemed defensive in his comments last week about USL’s success in the competition and has now changed the criteria for Superliga qualification thus allowing CONCACAF qualifiers to focus on that competition. Irrespective of the spin coming out of MLS HQ and Commissioner Garber’s mouth, I have believed for months now that the success of USL-1 side Montreal Impact in the Champions League made owner Joey Saputo and his co-investor George Gillett of Liverpool  fame think MLS was less attractive. Whatever the real story is behind the rejection/withdrawal of Montreal’s MLS bid, the success of the Impact in CONCACAF made it possible.

Commissioner Garber has tacitly accepted the importance and value of the new tournament by changing the qualification criteria for Superliga, which now takes on a UEFA Cup type feel. The previous dilemma of how Superliga and the Champions League could co-exist has been resolved and the new Superliga format will  prove to be effective for giving MLS Cup playoff qualifiers exposure to international competition.

The reality which has been lost on commentators and other MLS apologists who have bashed CONCACAF is that the Dynamo’s win last night was critical for salvaging MLS reputation in Central America and the Caribbean where this tournament is being taken very seriously by the local media.  MLS has established its reputation as a superior league for players from these countries and is also a more accesible league for Central Americans and Caribbean stars than the FMF is. But many a football pundit in CONCACAF region had belittled MLS’ lack of competitiveness in this event. It may have been lost on those in the US, but the Caribbean press was unrelenting in its shots at MLS when Joe Public, a side whose history in these competitions has been one of futility pummeled MLS’ New England Revolution. Joe Public again proved their futility in group stages and was actually run off the pitch at home by the USL Montreal Impact.

Fixture congestion and lack of prestige in this competition were cited by MLS apologists as reasons not to care. But the two USL teams that competed and ultimately advanced to the knock out stages faced worse fixture congestion during the group stages than any MLS side.  The lack of prestige argument never held water either, because MLS fans and officials were sweaty each and every year when the forerunner event of the Champions League, the Champions Cup took place. As was the case so often in the Champions Cup and in Superliga, the Houston Dyanmo alone have kept MLS credible.

MLS fans can live in an isolated coccon but under Oliver Luck and Dom Kinnear the Dynamo will not.  Inspite of not winning the official MLS title this year, Houston has demonstrted again it is the best in the business. It seems that despite the rhetoric of the typical MLS fan, the league itself maybe taking the lesson taught by the Dyanamo and implementing it as an official league policy. Thank goodness for that.

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  1. Footballer

    March 22, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Sepp Blatter needs to get off his ass and redo the Club World Cup in a better way. No other trophy in professional sports has as many teams eligible for it as the CWC. Blatter has to market that.

    Get the CWC final OUT of Japan or Dubai. Put it in Europe or South America. DO NOT have it 6 months after the UEFA CL. Is the Super Bowl played 6 months after the conference championships?

    They should synchronise all the continental tournaments. Why is the Liberators Cup final in July? Make it the day before the UEFA CL final.

    Why is Africa’s tourney over the summer? Have that end in the Spring. Now I understand that Asia needs to have its CL in the summer. Well then, let the winner of that be decided in November, as is the case in the AFC CL’s current format. Then it can wait for the other continents to crown their respective champs.

    April and May should then look like this:

    UEFA CL QF; Liberators Cup QF; ConcaChampions Final; Asia vs Oceania; Africa final

    UEFA CL semifinals; Liberators Cup semifinals; Asia/Oceania winner vs. Africa

    UEFA CL and Liberators Cup final

    CWC semifinals

    CWC Final

    Asia-Oceania should be at home of Asian champ. Asia/Oceania vs Africa should be at Asian champ too, unless Oceania wins, then it would be in Africa. CWC semis and final should be at neutral South American or European site.

  2. undrafted

    December 4, 2008 at 10:07 am

    I occasionally listen to the show “Cronometro” on ESPN Deportes. SuperLiga is noticed though Mexican-Americans seem split on whether or not it's meaningful. For me it's not an either/or situation with CONCACAF CL. SuperLiga doesn't have to be that important. Mexican teams have a need for preseason contests. Having them in the US makes both sides money. Having them against US sides give MLS exposure. Add sufficient prize money and it becomes clear both sides are trying. For 2009 MLS has had time to adapt to the presence of the CONCACAF CL and there won't be an overlap in participants. So I don't see why it needs to be a debate from here on out.

    Eventually MLS will grow into a league that will value CONCACAF CL accomplishments more. The “real” part of MLS rosters will be 20 not 18 players next year. Hopefully scheduling and financial issues will be worked out soon enough. I still think there are too many games (11-13 for the finalists) and too little fan interest. The Mexian teams competiting in Libertadores brings in to question which event they value more. International and intercontinental club play has potential but I still think it's overrated on this site right now.

  3. Jonathan

    December 3, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    -It's irrelevant to me if the European clubs don't take it seriously. I know that the South American clubs would take it to them like it's the last games of their careers.

    – If there is a club world competition in basketball, then the winner is the best in the world. They would be legit world champions unlike the press and NBA officials claiming the NBA champions as “world champions”

    – I don't care what MLS teams do. If Oceania and Australian teams can reach Japan with part time footballers, but MLS teams don't care about it is their business. It's only their image and reputation at stake.

    – About CONCACAF CL vs Superliga, I agree with Kartik. The football fans who already are watching the foreign leagues won't be easily swayed to check out MLS if many MLS teams are routinely beaten in CL. I guess the Superliga is to be thanked that the corrupt Warner got off his ass to enhance the CL. Nevertheless, the Superliga doesn't amount to much of anything outside of MLS fans and Mexican supporters in the country (I doubt that they see that cup as anything worth paying attention too. I'd put money on it.).

  4. undrafted

    December 3, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    It's only meaningful if all the clubs in it are 100% committed. In the hearts of European club players, is the CWC at the same level as the UEFA CL? Their domestic title? I doubt it. No matter what some might kindly suggest. The truth is that FIFA strong-arms the clubs into showing that they care.

    I don't prefer the SuperLiga. But I don't go around telling MLS to dump it and the associated revenues to write a check to Jack Warner. For me it's about on the level of the ACC-Big 10 challenge in college basketball.

    I'm not saying I want a UEFA/Libertadores only final. What I'd like is for the day to come where the honor of winning such a contest is something both sides consider paramount. But right now 90% of top tier players are playing weekly in Europe. So any sort of 2 week event making the winner of the UEFA CL play a limited number of games against other confed champs doesn't really determine a true world champion. It's a stretch, but it's something like saying the NBA champion should play 1 game (or best of 3) against the Euroleague champ. Now say the TV ratings are so-so in the US and the prize money is $5 million to the winning team. And the winner of that is the best team in the world? Should everyone immediately consider it predominant to the NBA championship? Should the European teams mortgage their financial future on a slim shot of winning a game?

    Reaching the Club World Cup is nice. Performing well there may earn a team some lasting respect. But I'm trying to put it all in perspective. MLS is a young league and I don't think trying to get a slim chance at reaching the CWC where they'd have a slim chance of doing anything ($2-5m payrolls vs $100m payrolls) is worth teams sacrificing a chance at winning MLS Cup or breaking even. Not for a while at least.

  5. Jonathan

    December 3, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    -The CWC is about clubs fighting it out to determine who can call themselves the best, second, or third in the world (until a new champion is crowned). If that seems meaningless to you as a neutral, I really don't what to say.

    -If you prefer the “market driven” $uperliga, that's your choice. Just don't expect the rest of us who don't lap up MLS's pronouncements to not see that as as a gimmick and nothing more than a Mickey Mouse Cup.

    – A UEFA and Libertadores only intercontinental cup is not good for the development of the game. Closing shop and just letting those from those confederations crown themselves as champions smells like an American league practice to me. Letting the champions of other confederations and host have a chance would create interest in the game more. As a neutral, I can appreciate their efforts even if the likes of Waitekere plays too much long balls.

  6. undrafted

    December 3, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    So because FIFA says it's important, we must obey and worship it. Or else we're not “really fans of the sport”. Watching UEFA CL, EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, MLS, and NCAA games isn't enough? Add in UEFA Cup, Boca/River & some MFL matches, and heck even USL and some CONCACAF CL games. The World Cup, the Euros, the Gold Cup, Copa America, every USMNT game (adult and youth), the Olympics, FIFA u20s, and FIFA u17s. One can follow all that, but if the CWC is something of a joke event until its final, you can't really be a fan of the sport? I think you have the definition of sports and entertainment mixed up. Sports involves something actually being contested.

    I'd love nothing more than one day the winners of the Copa Liberatores and UEFA CL decide to have a true “Super Bowl”. Much like the AFC/NFC did. One that they invest in and their fans demand. Maybe over time it'd adapt to let the rest of the world have a chance.

    But what we have now is not market driven. It's FIFA mandated. FIFA standardizes the game. It organizes the World Cup. But it has no place dictating what club matches are and are not important. Why let cronies like Jack Warner plunder the investments made by club founders? I suppose the Confederations Cup is just about on the level of the World Cup?

    There are “millions” of Pachuca fans who know about Étoile du Sahel? Sure. I don't much care if foreign fans turn their noses. But actually more than you think do that to the CWC. I'm not saying the event is worthless. Just that it has little to with why we should have domestic league. That our club owners shouldn't lose money on account of its sake. And that money lost isn't worth whatever short-term ding there is in prestige. I'll spend 30 minutes each year scanning through the semis and final. Occasionally someone like Hasebe from Urawa or Aboutrika fro Al-Ahly will get me to watch a few minutes more. But as listed above, there's much more soccer to choose from. Forgive me if skip over watching every minute of Sepahan vs Waitakere United.

  7. Jonathan

    December 3, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    -So what if the chances of CONCACAF team has a very low chance of competing in the final game? This is sports, not entertainment. If you want the latter, go to your local multiplex. The competition is engaging for football fans, and those who would rather get their fix of MLS or European leagues are not really fans of the sport.

    -With your dismissive attitude, don't expect that football fans outside of the country and even inside it (those who prefer the Mexican league) turn up their nose at MLS

    -Millions of Pachuca fans and the people who follow the plight of Mexican teams would know. Just because you don't give a damn doesn't mean much at all.

  8. undrafted

    December 2, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Check your history, MLS teams won the 98 and 2000 Champions' Cups. DC won the Copa Interamericana in 1998. I've refrained from pretending that those wins prove much of anything. Only UEFA and CONMEBOL sides have reached the CWC final. So MLS would be basically looking to go for a quarterfinal or semifinal paycheck. Games that almost noone in Europe would watch (much less care about as long as the UEFA side reached the final). They might as well still call in the Intercontinental Cup. Pachuca got knocked about by who last year? Étoile du Sahel of Tunisia. Millions outside of Japan must remember that one?

    The Club World Cup is basically an unecessary strain on the UEFA CL winner. They have to pay and coerce for the European side to take the event half-way seriously. I'd much rather the event someday naturally evolve into existence and importance than have FIFA use it as a cash-grab. Which did Milan want to win more last year, the CL final or the CWC final? If you answered CL, doesn't that make the CWC a rather odd event? Kind of like the Confederations Cup. It's like soccer's version of the NFL Pro Bowl. A couple years ago I watched every game. Now its barely worth 10 minutes of fast-forwarding through.

  9. Jonathan

    December 2, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    The CL is important because the winner gets a trip to contest for the CWC. Fortunately for MLS, the Dynamo got in. It was in danger of having zero respect from myself. I now have more respect for USL, and I would watch it more than I would an MLS game.

    Just because your “public” doesn't know the CL doesn't diminish its importance.

    Stop being such a homer for MLS. If (note the word if), an MLS team miraculously won the CL, you'd be all over the competition and the importance of representing one's confederation well in Japan.

  10. eplnfl

    November 28, 2008 at 5:13 am

    The CCC is hardly known to the American Soccer public. Please note the reference to the “soccer public”. If the clued in soccer public does not have an understanding of the competition then how can it possibly be sold to a wider audience. An event that gets no mention even on ESPN does not exist on the American sports scene. Ok, ESPN in Spanish may cover it, but since I do not get it I wouldn't know.

    MLS can use the Superliga and CCC to bring in the extra revenue to lure some better quality players to the American shores. So it is important to the future of MLS to make them work. In my book making them a New World version of the UEFA Cup an CL may make the most sense. The wider soccer public can accept them quicker that way. In the meantime yes, good for Houston, but how many of us` really care?

  11. undrafted

    November 27, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    The CCC wasn't a 13 game commitment with 6-8 games during the middle of the MLS season. Don't me wrong, CCL would be nice to win, but sacrificing a MLS season for the liklihood of losing to a Mexican team in the semis is a bad gamble. It's not about taking it seriously, it's about priorities and rationing limited resources.

    I've said it before, if MLS wants to give me a check, I'll take it.

    With typical 2-3 million dollar payrolls, MLS can't play a large part on the world stage. That's the transfer fee of a borderline starter for an EPL team. MLS isn't winning over the eurosnobs without spending ten times as much on players. Why make major sacrifices now (like throwing away a MLS season to make the CCL semis) to avoid temporary hits in popluarity in that community? I'd like to see a doubling of the salary cap, but I don't pretend to know if doing so would pay for itself. If spending $5 million on players for footballing reasons is a viable business plan, I hope some USL clubs go for it. If some think $10 million is reasonable, convince someone to go for it. I find it odd the crap spewed at owners willing to lose some money on soccer to build the sport for impatient, immature fans that seem so prevalent.

  12. Matt

    November 27, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Obviously MLS is not on board with the CCL because Undrafted has proven himself for months now to merely be a shill for the league. He obviously gets his talking points faxed or emailed every morning and spouts out the company line.

    If MLS doesn't take the CCL seriously that's their decision, but understand regardless of undrafted and Garber's rhetoric this is the type of thing that hurts MLS credibility even among eurosnobic fans here who have rubbed it in to me that the USL teams have done better than the MLS teams in the CCL. Whether you think it's not important and whether MLS teams take it seriously really should not be the issue: that is the choice of MLS and that is preciesly why MLS does not get it and does not integrate itself in the larger world footballing community. Gazidis going to Arsenal while a good PR coup for MLS means the league has even fewer football people who understand the world game and is less and less of a serious league.

    Oh and BTW, the J-League teams take the Asian Club Championship VERY seriously and as the article points out MLS always took the CCC to heart because the excuses were frequent and programed by MLS when their teams lost.

  13. undrafted

    November 27, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Do you have any proof for “Every other league in the world respects thier confederation tournament with equal or even more reverance than their league titles.”

    And by the way the best SuperLiga crowd was a Tuesday.

    Go ask Pumas, Santos, or Atlante if they'd rather win the Apertura or the CCL. Better yet ask their fans. The European CL represents the best of the best. The CCL is the best of the mediocre. It has potential but not the prestige for Garber to quickly hand over any sort of league control to Jack Warner.

    So did Milan enjoy their Club World Cup win more than their UEFA CL win? I'm not going to pretend to know enough about the J-League but I doubt you do either to say that Urawa Red Diamonds or Gamba Osaka prefer winning the Asian CL instead of the J-League. And how intimidated do you think most any European club is of a team that wins the CONCACAF CL? Probably as much as we'd be of the OFC Champions League winner. Your claim “fails” without proof.

  14. Arnie

    November 27, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Too many different tournaments boggle my mind, and I am trying to keep up. Imagine the casual fan. Hopeless. That feeling hurts attendance.

  15. ck in d

    November 27, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    This is a pretty silly comment. Every other league in the world respects thier confederation tournament with equal or even more reverance than their league titles. Part of the Dynamos attendance dropoff in CCL is due to the fact that while Superliga is part of the MLS season ticket packages, CCL is not. Add to the fact that CCL is a weekday tournament and there is your answer. CCL is the tournament that links MLS to FIFA. It gives you the chance to perhaps one day play meaningful games against teams like Inter, Man U, Chelsea, or Barca. MEANINGFUL games!

    If the MLS cannot see the benefit of being a part of FIFA unlike their predecessors the NASL, who did not have sanctioning by FIFA, then they are a lost cause for truly belonging to the World's game. Your comment on this fails seriously.

  16. undrafted

    November 27, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Houston crowds:

    07/12 – Saturday Atlante 13,105
    07/15 – Tuesday CD Guadalajara 28,723
    07/29 – Tuesday Pachuca 16,679

    MLS playoffs:
    11/9 – Sunday York Red Bulls 30,053

    10/07 – Tuesday San Francisco FC 4,178
    10/22 – Wednesday Pumas UNAM 8,741
    11/26 – Wednesday CD Luis Angel Firpo 14,142

    clearly Houston fans appreciated the importance of the 08/09 CCC

    just because you and Jack Warner say it was the most important event on the MLS calander doesn't make it so. FIFA has rules and MLS pretty much must oblige in sending its top teams. This hastily scheduled event overlapped with the better moneymaker in SuperLiga. A sensible solution as been reached that might turn the 09/10 event into less of a joke. But Jack Warner still doesn't dictate the economic model of MLS and noone will convince overnight the bulk of casual MLS fans that this event really matters. MLS will try and play along next year. So now maybe you should focus your attention on convincing MFL teams that they should be glad to participate next year.

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