Since almost nobody can get information out of CONCACAF legitimately, why not let a coach inadvertently slip an announcement into a mundane post-game press conference?
Ben Olsen did just that this week, perhaps letting the cat out of the bag on a major move that will hugely benefit MLS teams. In 2017, it appears the CONCACAF Champions League could move from its August-April schedule to a March-November one.
Currently, the knockout stages of the competition begin before MLS teams begin their regular seasons, while the rest of CONCACAF has already begun their spring seasons, putting MLS teams behind the eight ball. And during the fall of the same year, teams have to juggle their playoff pushes with group stage trips to Honduras, El Salvador and Panama (among other places), once again putting MLS teams at a major disadvantage.
The new schedule finally allows MLS teams to compete on the same footing as Mexican teams during the competition, and the change may finally be the one that allows a MLS team to win the competition. Now, CONCACAF Champions League matches are a chance to give bench and youth players some game time. A first team player may get a cameo appearance.
MLS teams do not take the competition seriously in the group stage, which then puts them in a precarious position once the knockout stages begin in March. They end up facing in-form Mexican teams fresh out of preseason, usually spelling doom. The Montreal Impact fought this by spending their entire preseason in Mexico and going all in on the competition in the fall, but they are a rare breed. DC United chose not to do this, and the Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City and Portland were all eliminated in the group stage.
The worth of the CONCACAF Champions League is debatable, but it is currently the only competition where Liga MX and MLS teams meet in a competitive setting. The league office may have its eyes on Europe, but looking south is the only direction that’s needed until MLS teams win this competition consistently. Be the best on your continent first. MLS teams may now have the opportunity to compete on equal footing with Mexican teams at long last.
Asian and African Champions Leagues as well as South America’s Copa Liberatdores run on similar schedules, and that hasn’t negatively affected league performances in those confederations. Running a schedule similar to the UEFA Champions League is idealism, not an attainable target. CONCACAF have finally found a way to lend some worth to a fledgling international competition played by scrubs and attended only by friends and family.
This change benefits everyone involved and will not only make MLS teams take it more seriously but strengthen the competition as a whole, which will benefit the entire region in a positive way. So watch CONCACAF scrap it, like they do all of their other good ideas.
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