Monday, November 13, 2006

A True CONCACAF Champions League

The CONCACAF Champions Cup was designed to emulate the UEFA Champions League, the Copa Libertadores, UEFA Cup, Copa Sudamericana and pretty much any other regional club championship tournaments. The biggest difference between the CONCACAF tournament and the tournaments in other regions is that the CCC doesn’t really offer that much to the CONCACAF clubs that play in it, other than the chance to play non-league clubs. With the UEFA Champions League, you have large cash prizes for the winner, so you always get every club fighting tooth and nail for the trophy.

I recommend that CONCACAF, in order to actually make the CCC a more viable and profitable regional tournament, should expand the tournament from the current eight club format to a 16 club format. In doing so it will obviously increase the number of clubs and leagues that get representation in the tournament and it will make the tournament a lot more attractive and possibly enhance its image outside and inside the region.

The current format for the league is:
- Mexico Apertura Champion
- Mexico Clausura Champion
- MLS Cup Winner
- MLS Supporter Shield Winner
- Central American Club
- Central American Club
- Central American Club
- Caribbean Qualifier Champion

I propose the following format for the expanded tournament:

- Mexico: Apertura Champion
- Mexico: Clasura Champion
- Mexico: Interliga Runner-Up
- Mexico: Interliga Runner-Up
- USA: MLS Cup Champion
- USA: Supporters Shield Winner
- USA: USOC Champion
- MLS/FMF #2
- Canada Champion
- Central America
- Central America
- Central America
- Central America
- Central America
- Caribbean
- Caribbean

The Additions
Mexico, in any expanded CCC should have the largest number of spots of any federation, as they are the best league in the region. In addition to the two current spots (Apertura & Clasura Champions) I suggest adding the two clubs that finish as the runners up as the 3rd and 4th spots for the CCC. This still gives the runners up something for making the two finals of the Interliga and expands the chances for the Mexican clubs to play in regional soccer.

In the USA, MLS currently has a monopoly on the CCC spots, as the MLS Supporters Shield winner and the MLS Cup winner get those two spots. In a “slight” way of breaking that monopoly, I suggest adding a third USA slot for the USOC champion. This gives the MLS clubs another avenue into the tournament, and gives the USL and lower division clubs a “chance” to qualify for the USA spot. Doing so will give the USOC a much needed boost in importance in domestic soccer, something that the tournament drastically needs.

The next added spot should go to the runner up of the proposed MLS/FMF tournament. This gives both Mexico and the USA a chance at another CCC slot, as it is understood that the winner of this tournament might eventually get a spot in the Copa Libertadores. Giving the runner up a spot in the CCC is a pretty good reward for making the finals. This also makes it a toss up as to if Mexico gets five representatives or of the USA gets 4. As Toronto FC will be joining MLS next season, this also opens up an outside chance for a Canadian club to reach the CCC.

Building off of the idea that Toronto FC could take second in the MLS/FMF tournament and gain entry into the CCC, I suggest a new spot for a Canadian Champion, much like the Interliga played by the Mexican clubs for their two berths into the Copa Libertadoers. The tournament can be a round robin tournament among the six Canadian clubs that are in the MLS, USL1, USL2 and PDL:

- Toronto FC (MLS)
- Toronto Lynx (USL2)
- Vancouver Whitecaps (USL)
- Montreal Impact (USL)
- Thunder Bay Chill (PDL)
- Abbotsville Rangers (PDL)

Have them all play each other (5 matches), schedule the tournament for August or September of the previous year, considering for weather in Canada. The club with the highest points from the five matches (3 points win; 1 point draw) gets the CCC spot. Standard tie breaking rules apply for this tournament.

This would be a great way to raise the level and visibility of Canadian soccer. Having their domestic clubs challenge each other would be huge for national bragging rights, especially if Toronto FC gets knocked off by one of the PDL clubs.

Currently, the Central American clubs have to duke it out in the Torneo Interclubes de UNCAF and only 3 clubs get entry into the CCC. I suggest increasing their number of spots by two, upping their representation to five. As Saprissa showed last season, the Central American clubs are not pushovers and have as much of a chance at winning the CCC as anyone else.

The last increase would come from the Caribbean Qualifiers. Currently the winner of the tournament gets the one spot. I recommend changing the number of spots to two, so the two clubs that get to the final get entry into the CCC.

Tournament Format
After CONCACAF expands the size of the tournament, they should then alter the format of the tournament, by having a group stage at the beginning, used to eliminate eight of the clubs. Break the clubs into four groups of four and have them play 6 home and away matches to figure out which two clubs moves out from the group stage, just like how the UEFA Champions League operates. Having more matches provides for more TV revenue and advertising revenue. This type of situation would attract more investors, thus making more money for CONCACAF (which Jacky likes) and more money for the clubs. After the group phase, then have the knockout matches like they do right now.

Copa Sudamericana Entry
As of right now, it has been a loose practice for CONMEBOL to invite the CCC clubs that advance to the Semi-Finals without winning, to the Copa Sudamericana. In my revamping of the CCC, I would establish as a concrete agreement between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL. Having the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place CCC spots get guaranteed entry into the Copa Sudamericana would be an excellent incentive for the CONCACAF clubs and their leagues.

Reason for Concern
Changing the size and format of this tournament would create a bigger buzz for the CCC. Clubs in MLS, Canada and the Caribbean nations would be able to use the CCC as a recruiting tool for future potential players, especially with the FIFA World Club Cup berth for the winner. Increasing the regional club championships should also help CONCACAF in its standing in FIFA.

If CONCACAF fails to overhaul the CCC and make it a credible tournament for the region, they will be facing the chance that several of the individual federations in the region decide to try and get involved in the new MLS/FMF tournament that is being started in the 2007 season. With a rumored One Million dollar cash prize for first place and also a rumored entry into the Copa Libertadores tournament, that tournament might pose more competition than CONCACAF wants. If the MLS/FMF tournament does not involve the CONCACAF officials, they will be left out of any of the revenues (Jack hates losing out on money, look at what he did with his World Cup tickets). If CONCACAF doesn’t adapt now, they will lose out later.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you sent this to CONCACAF, USSF and MLS? If not you should. Great work!

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

one problem with the Canadian qualifying process you have there, is that if you put it in Aug/Sept, you lose all the PDL teams, since they are mostly made of college kids, they'll be back at their schools by then. Other then that, good job.

8:04 PM  
Blogger marvin said...

Costa Rica should have 2 seeds, there is not need to make them qualify with the other centralamerican teams

1:29 PM  

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