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Champions League and MLS

I asked Santino Quaranta the other day about D.C. United's congested schedule and the challenges it presents as the club pushes for an MLS playoff berth, vies to repeat as U.S. Open Cup champion and begins CONCACAF Champions League play. Tonight United plays the second of 10 matches in a 31-day span, a CL opener against Marathon in San Pedro Sula, Honduras (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel).

In Europe, the concurrent pursuit of three trophies is realistic because roster sizes and the quality of depth are available. But in MLS, with most clubs offering maybe 16 players who have the versatility, experience and skill to endure the schedule demands and perform at a reasonably high level two or three days per week, the situation is very different. There is also greater emphasis on international competition in Europe because of history and tradition. Here, few casual soccer fans I've encountered have much interest in the CONCACAF Champions League. To them, success is defined by performance in the league, by beating Beckham and the Galaxy this weekend, and by winning the MLS title. To miss the playoffs would be an immeasurable failure.

Here's Quaranta's thoughts:

"You would hope that we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot by winning that game" against Firpo in the Champions League preliminary stage, a result that sent DCU through to group play and added six games (and three long road trips) to the schedule. "If we wouldn't have had that schedule, it would look pretty good for us."

Some would argue that international tournaments that reward the winner with a pass to a world event are more important than league play.

"I don't buy it," he added. "I guess it is. It's important to the club and it's important to the people here -- we're taking it seriously -- but for me, the league has to be [the priority], right? What good is it to play in this tournament if you don't make the playoffs? To me, it doesn't make sense."

Someday, when MLS invests more money in rosters and public interest in Champions League grows, league and international play will be weighed almost equally. It is possible to succeed in both under current circumstances -- look no further than the success of the USL clubs in Champions League last year -- but for now, it seems, greater emphasis in MLS should probably remain on the regular season.

Thoughts?

By Steve Goff  |  August 18, 2009; 1:14 PM ET
Categories:  CONCACAF Champions League , D.C. United , MLS  
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Next: United's Hall of Tradition

Comments

I'd certainly agree that the playoffs have to be priority #1 especially after last season's awful collapse.

I guess the part that's hard to swallow is how our reserves and fringe starters - nominally professional soccer players - seem to struggle to even appear credible against teams from other leagues. I've often thought it's a difference in style of play - MLS teams generally play organized and compact and don't have skillful players that run at you, as many Mexican and Central American teams do, and even our top lineup seems to struggle against that style of play (see Firpo leg two). It's just frustrating to see us look like a rec team, sliced and diced by foreign teams, despite our defensive focus in games like these.

I really, really hope we see a four-man backline tonight (and on sat). Show us you can adapt, Tommy?

Posted by: the_slammer | August 18, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The number one priority in this climate has to remain the MLS Cup. Though, the reason USL teams have great success is because they are prepared to do the dirty work in this competition.

DC is hurting for a playoff spot right now. This is going to be the most competitive season in terms of qualifying for the playoffs. DC has always been a team which prides itself on playing the best football in the MLS. Unfortunately, success in this years CCL may mean swallowing our pride and battening down the hatches. I personally am okay with DC playing a mix of reserves, coming out in a 4-5-1, and playing some all around ugly football to grind out a result. Pretty, no, effective? Usually.

Save our "champagne football" for the league. Plus this team could benefit from a little "hard nose", "get stuck-in" mentality.

Posted by: grubbsbl | August 18, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and as has always been the case, we seem to get a little obsessed with scoring beautifully, or at worst even dribbling the freaking ball into the goal. Can we start taking some more shots? I don't know if anyone on the team has noticed, but a lot of goals in this league are scored off goalie errors, caroms, and defensive blunders. Can't get those if you don't take the occasional shot from beyond the six yard box.

Posted by: the_slammer | August 18, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"To miss the playoffs would be an immeasurable failure."

Nah, I think we can measure it in a unit I call the "Red Bull." Missing the playoffs via a prolonged second-half-of-season slump is one Red Bull. Missing courtesy of a late-season collapse is two Red Bulls. Missing when a late-season surge comes up just short on the last week is three Red Bulls. Spending the second half of the season out of the playoff picture is four Red Bulls...and being completely out of the playoff picture from the first week of April is five Red Bulls.

Right now, United is looking at a failure level of about 1.5 Red Bulls.

Posted by: EdTheRed | August 18, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

And that, boys and girls, is for all those who think that the World Cup championship is this magical goal that makes everything else worth de-prioritizing. And nobody cares about that. So whether or not the PR Islanders do better than Toronto FC...really, who cares?

Posted by: very_clever_username | August 18, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

First off, DC has had PLENTY of chances to secure standings points at less-congested times of the year and FAILED to do so.

Second, thank you for pointing out "it is possible to succeed in both under current circumstances -- look no further than the success of the USL clubs".

Third, good performances in international competition are just as valuable as MLS Cups when it comes to attracting international talent.

Finally, I'd like to see the CCL play-in spot remain in place for the USOC winner. If a USL team wins the Open Cup, they have certainly earned the right to compete internationally. Especially if they treat the competition with the respect it deserves like Puerto Rico and Montreal did. I'd rather see a passionate Charleston than a disinterested MLS side. (of course my preference is always a committed DCU championship side).

Posted by: Pedalada | August 18, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

So, let me get this right.

Quaranta would rather play in a meaningless friendly against Real Madrid, than in a real competion against Real Madrid with the chance that someone in Europe will see him play decently and take a shot at him giving him the big bucks.

He is right - "To me, it doesn't make sense."


Posted by: Barracudas | August 18, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't care less about what Tino's got to say about anything right now. Get out on the field an do your job. If you guys really cared about league play so much it should have translated into less ties and some road wins. Don't blame your fans because you qualified for Champion's League mr. Baltimore just make like a professional and put some crosses on some heads or score some goals. Nothing else matters.

Posted by: DadRyan | August 18, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Goff and Tino on this 100%, and I've said so often. We should've thrown the Firpo game and concentrated on the Playoffs and the Open Cup Final. MLS teams do not have the depth to meaningfully compete in CCL - except in very specific circumstances. Houston, for example - Brian Ching (USMNT Regular), Rico Clark (USMNT and likely Euro candidate), and Holden (USMNT and almost certain Euro candidate) among others, along with currently tieing Columbus (incidentally, the OTHER MLS CCL team) at the top of the MLS standings. Their focus has been on hedging against schedule congestion by putting themselves in a good position leading into CCL. Right now, MLS has to weather the storm in CCL rather than try to win the thing, because we can't have both at the same time.

And the simple test of this is as follows: who would consider this season to be a success if we lost the Open Cup final, missed the playoffs, but squeaked by into knockout stages of CCL only to get trounced Houston-style in February/March? And, by contrast, who would consider this season a failure if we make the playoffs and make a run to the conference final, but win 0-1 games in CCL?

Posted by: VercengetorixII | August 18, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Here's where I get conflicted. I HATE the MLS Playoffs. It's an abberation that the Best Team over the course of the season wins the Shield and the Cup and the 2005 Galaxy and 2008 Red Bulls show it's complete crap when teams only have to worry about focusing on a 4 game stretch.

I agree with Santino in MLS' current structure and CONCACAF's current structure - the calendars don't mesh AT ALL and seemingly create an EITHER OR situation.

You really just need to alter the structure again and re-weight the trophies. (It also wouldn't hurt if CONCACAF had some more money behind it's winner/participants to encourage the tournament).

Ideally:

MLS Cup - Champion, single-table, balanced schedule DONE

USOC - Single elimination Open Cup Tournament, DONE

Supporters Shield - Qualifying/or ALL league teams in single elimination season close tournament with seeding on finish in the table. We need to get over this idea that tournaments are fair - they're not. The cream rises to the top over a season.

SuperLiga - spring version of Champions League lite.

Put me in the category of people who like the Bowl System as it is, thinks the BCS works as well as to be expected, thinks March Madness is a great event but not always the fair decider and sees playoffs as a necessary evil for leagues that are too big to create a balance.

Playoffs are not fair. To me, they are the Championship Decider akin to FieldTurf. It's close, but somethings not quite right always.

I agree with Santino's assessment that it makes the year tough, really does. But it's more that MLS does it to itself by pricing it's TV rights like every other league - based solely on the pop that you get from the end of the year on 1 GAME.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | August 18, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Re: Quaranta - Loser talk.

And, "but for now, it seems, greater emphasis in MLS should probably remain on the regular season."

Then explain United's lack of damn in Toronto this past Saturday.

Posted by: BDR232 | August 18, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Makes sense until your club starts promoting itself as the most successful club in MLS. In theory, the most successful club in MLS should be able to do very well in CONCACAF competitions.

The league is the priority, but if you want to hang your hat on past successes and talk up how successful you have been, you had better start winning some competitions outside of MLS. Just my opinion. It adds much more credibility to your claim of being the most successful team in MLS. If a person with average soccer knowledge sees an MLS team losing to some "crap" team from Honduras, Panama, etc., how good can MLS really be?

Posted by: therealfootball | August 18, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

It's a bit like cold water on my face, but at least I really know that MLS is a significantly higher priority. Also makes me prioritize my ticket purchasing decisions. I can understand it though. Some day the rosters will hopefully be big enough to support multi trophy campaigns.

Posted by: mbyrd28 | August 18, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

i agree mostly with VBB and his ideal scenario (not on the college football stuff - there's too many teams not to have some sort of tournament that allows access to the smaller conferences). i don't hate the MLS playoffs, but can we envision a day that they are done away with? it would be nice to have the end of season battles be for CCL/Superliga spots instead of figuring out which mediocre teams have a shot at MLS Cup.

Posted by: dimesmakedollars | August 18, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm interested in the Champions League and plan to watch tonight because I find the international competition fascinating. I know how DC United (and other MLS clubs) measure up against each other -- I want to see if they can go on the road and into tough venues and defeat the best club teams in Central America. That nation-versus-nation competition gets me excited.

Not to completely discount the MLS Cup or DC United's chances, but the MLS playoffs are a crapshoot and not indicative of the best team. (For which DC United can be thankful.)

Posted by: Cerealman | August 18, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Teams like DC are at a great disadvantage when it comes to making the playoffs as compared to teams that don't have to play so many internationals. It's a long season and a small roster, and it'll come back to bite teams in the end through injuries and fatigue. It seems like all teams in MLS should either be required to play the same number of internationals, or teams with more matches should get additional roster spots.

Posted by: hacksaw | August 18, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Bullcrap!! I guess this mentality is why we called football 'soccer'. Typical American mentality. Let's look beyond our world. I follow the game south of the border and in Europe. If we want to be taken seriously and honestly grow. Which I can argument for then the key is building a reputation outside our borders. That in itself not only will give us the respect of Mexicans and Ticos but will let us represent the league in the World Club Cup in Japan. Above all quality players will come here in their prime instead of just vacationing before retiring!

Posted by: silentbat | August 18, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

If MLS wants to get serious about the CONCACAF Champions League, it has to raise the salary cap. Otherwise, even the very best MLS teams will find it next to impossible to compete against good Mexican and Central American teams (who have larger budgets).

Posted by: Stevenho | August 18, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Where else in the middle of a recession would workers be lamenting the fact that they had too much work!? That their success and the thing they are paid to do - win - would be looked on as a problem?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but these guys get paid to play soccer, right? The better they play the more games they get to play and the more $$$ they make (either here for DC or another MLS team, in bonuses based on the competition, in a next contract or a possible move overseas).

Ultimately guys need to want to play the game. Or we need different guys.

Posted by: LookingDangerous | August 18, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't give a flying **** about the "respect of the Mexicans." I would rather have their fear and loathing.

Posted by: OWNTF | August 18, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

@silentbat - World Club Cup is in the UAE this year.

Also, not all of the typical American mentality is bad. Some of the constraints of this country would make it hard to get people attracted to the sport. Fall-Spring Calendar puts MLS behind the Television 8-Balls of MLB Playoffs, NFL, College Football, NBA, College Basketball, NHL, etc. It's a coverage disaster even if it lines up the calendar. Promotion-Relegation, probably the one aspect that helps teams at the bottom sell tickets at the end of the year knowing you're still "fighting" for something. If it's not the 8-seed in the playoffs, it's life in the top division and the bigger revenue share associated with it.

As a 10 team league the playoffs were kind of a joke when 8 teams qualified. It's a little more meaningful when it's only 8 out of 15. It will be a lot more meaningful when it's 8 out of 20. However, it's still a short tournament where crazy things can happen and your best team is not represneted. When you're college football, the NFL, the NBA, etc and you cannot play a balanced schedule, then you need a way to determine who was best and hence the need for conferences and playoffs. When you're the right size for a balanced schedule - there's no need for something else to take away from the fact that one team made it through 30-38 games and had the most points and go - CONGRATS, here's four more games to be sure you're the champ and if you're not, no one will remember your year.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | August 18, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

It depends on the club. Houston and Columbus have recent MLS Cups and, in the short-term memories of their respective localities, can go hard(er) in pursuit of the CCL.

DC, on the other hand, is coming off a season that left a bad taste in the mouths of diehards and casual fans alike. If even the diehard fans are leaning towards favoring MLS success over the CCL, one can imagine the casual fans that don't even quite grasp what the CCL is would also prefer to see DC in the playoffs with a chance rather than advancing past the CCL group stage.

I think the CCL is a great competition. The soccer is not exactly like watching Barcelona, but there's never a shortage of passion or drama. It's also nice to see MLS teams face different tactics, different types of players, and different atmospheres. It's fascinating to see teams that, say, cope with Moreno and Gomez by a method other than kicking them, which is the preferred MLS approach. It's intriguing to watch teams field right backs that never gave up the fantasy of being swashbuckling wingers, and the coach not only tolerates that but actually endorses it.

All that said, DC this year needs to be in the MLS playoffs to restore the faith of the there-every-game fans and reignite the interest of the a-few-times-a-season crowd. The wild-eyed optimist in me sees a way to get to the playoffs and get out of the group, but it looks like a longshot.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | August 18, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Nobody but diehard already-converted US soccer fans even notices if an MLS team beats Cruz Azul or Pachuca.

But the general US sports fan would sit up and take notice if an MLS team played a cup game against Man U or Munich or Milan (for example, see US v. Spain in Confed Cup). If the path to such games goes through Pachuca, etc, then that's the path MLS must take. But we should field competitive teams that care.

Posted by: OWNTF | August 18, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

For DC this year, the question is really academic. We are old and we are slow. IMO we appear to be, by far, the slowest team in the league, with no one else even close to our slowness. We have some young guys with OK pace, but we do not have a single player whose speed is feared by other clubs. So, we can't stretch other teams' defenses, so all of our vaunted "skill" doesn't win too many games for us.

So we are in these regional tourneys and maybe we will even squeak into the MLS playoffs. Big deal. This at best mediocre DC team will be out of all on its ears before we know what hit us.

You can't get blood out of a turnip. We are done for this year, and next year its major rebuilding time.

Posted by: Ron16 | August 18, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I get sick of watching these guys(DCU) put on pathetic displays....whether in Toronto, or in Saprissa. It is time for them to man up and play hard EVERY game. Priority, schmiority.
They tend to not look interested waaaaaaay too often for me.
All this talk about salary caps and depth goes out the window when half the elimination round is from USL. I guess those guys "want" to play soccer. Our guys maybe just 'have' to play. Keep up with that sorry attitude and they won't "have" to play too many more games this year. Or next year, for that matter.

Posted by: marksman37 | August 18, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I will play the blame game...Soehn needs to be replaced.

Posted by: supamars11 | August 18, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I've never understood why some people argue that playing in the Club World Cup is some tremendous achievement, and suddenly DC will be taken seriously.

The European clubs take the tournament about as seriously as the Peace Cup. While I'd enjoy watching DC vs Estudiantes in a competitive match, a win over them would barely register in the global football community.

That said, I still enjoy the CCL, and would like United to do well in the tournament, I just don't see it happening with rosters this small, and a payroll this low.

Posted by: alecw81 | August 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Anybody want to know the Celtic-Arsenal score?

If so, send $19.95 (plus S&H) to:...

Posted by: joedoc1 | August 18, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

"We win trophies." Isn't that the DCU mantra these days? I say, put yer money where yer mouth is. I can see where Tino's coming from, but he's suffering from myopia. Of course the CCL matters, as does the US Open Cup AND MLS! This ain't Kansas City people!

Posted by: loosek | August 18, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Success in league play is the foundation for everything else and by definition should always be first priority. If you succeed in the league, you earn one of the CCL berths and get to try your luck in that next year.

There is one small asterisk to this because the USOC champ gets a berth in CCL. That's the one hole card United has to play. It's why they are in CCL this year and most likely why they will get to still be in it next year. Heaven help us if we lose the USOC final on 9/2 because it will probably be a steep hill to climb for playoff qualification, based on the team's league form of late.

Posted by: cmjhawk86 | August 18, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Well now we know why the team has sucked in intl competition for at least three years in a row. the players dont give a damn and consider it a burden. some of that has got to stem from the coach. frankly i am completely surprised that a quote from a player which says that it was probably a bad thing to qualify for the next round made it through. if they dont care about winning then why should i? if they dont have any pride in the team then why should i?

but what i really want to know now is, who else in the front office shares tino's feelings (since clearly there are more people within the organization who feel the same way)? does soehn? does payne? does chang?

Posted by: PindarPushkin | August 18, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

First choice teams in Arsenal/Celtic. So when and where is this fabled depth to be used? Do they play their scrubs on the weekend?

Posted by: DadRyan | August 18, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Very leading question, Goff. The way you build up the topic anyone would sound like a fool if they said CCL success was more important than making MLS playoffs.

Did Tino have to listen to a similar description before he gave his answer?

CCL and MLS playoffs are both worthy goals and the team, with good play and some luck, can enjoy success in both. An MLS team can make the playoffs and still leave its fans feeling pretty disappointed if it crashes and burns at home against New England or Chicago like DC has done in recent seasons. So, by itself, making the playoffs doesn't mean everyone will be happy and contented all offseason.

For me, making the MLS playoffs is priority #1 but CCL is not too far behind.

As the 2 competitions play out, the team should calibrate its effort to do well in both with MLS postseason as a priority. The roster is currently deep enough to allow significant player rotation and I don't think we shouldn't be so one-sided in our focus to say one competition is for the best players and the other is for the scrubs.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | August 18, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to see this comment from Santino. DC United used to be a club with big ambitions. In fact, Santino used to be a young man with big ambitions. No more, apparently.

I still say CCL and Open Cup should be the priorities, and put the reserves in the League games. Let Tino play in those too.

Posted by: fentysupporter | August 18, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

First choice teams in Arsenal/Celtic. So when and where is this fabled depth to be used? Do they play their scrubs on the weekend?

Posted by: DadRyan | August 18, 2009 3:34 PM

It's really important for them to qualify for champions league and get a share of all the tv money. It is less important for Arsenal to play a strong team against Portsmouth, who are struggling on and off the field.

I'll be at the next two Arsenal matches cheering for their oponents. Hope they run themselves ragged today. C'mon Hoops!

Posted by: BlackandRedRedDevil | August 18, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Don't bite my head off guys but has MLS ever considered reducing the number of regular season games to accomodate the international competition? I'm aware there is a revenue issue with less MLS games but this could be offset by opening up SuperLiga to every team not involved in the CCL. What do you guys think?

Posted by: Gambrills4 | August 18, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Champions league should be priority. Part of the goal of the mls season is to be able to be part of these games. And especially since there is no relegation, go after the big prize!

Posted by: dc_emp | August 18, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Obviously the teams from other leagues all manage to get motivated for these tournaments, and they all have regular season games too.

MLS fails at the CCC/CCL because MLS rosters are not good enough. End statement.

Posted by: sobugged1 | August 18, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I might take some flak for this but I think... right now US Open Cup is priority number one. If we only win one match the rest of the season , it should be this one.

Beyond that... Moreno, Emilio, Olsen, and Gomez shouldn't have made the trip tonight.

Go for 1 point tonight and get three at them at RFK.

Posted by: HeroicBlackandRed | August 18, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

1. The league should switch to match up with the rest of the worlds leagues (i.e. shift to play in the fall). I believe that it is utter nonsense that we are going head to head with the NFL. We could start play in July and go through december 1. soccer in us is not competing with the NFL. It is different markets. and in only a few instances would it impact stadium conflicts

2. buy the 2nd division USL and go with relegation/promotion

3. Eliminate the "playoffs" and adopt a league cup tournament format (like the FA cup). Make the season long title the big enchalada.

Posted by: wordup1 | August 18, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

1) Not going to happen. Attendance is a tough sell in the rainy, cool spring months. How about a nice Wednesday night game in New York in early December? And good luck getting ESPN coverage on any night at all during college football.

2) Never, ever going to happen. You're going to tell a guy who just shelled out $40m for an MLS team that his team will be playing second division soccer next year? Please.

3) Maybe. But it isn't like playoffs are foreign in soccer. See the Mexican league, which is actually doing pretty well, as it turns out.

Posted by: the_slammer | August 18, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

c'mon, everyone knows the top priority of every team in MLS each year is to bring home the La Manga Cup.

Posted by: CDRHoek | August 18, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Goff and Tino on this 100%, and I've said so often. We should've thrown the Firpo game and concentrated on the Playoffs and the Open Cup Final.

Posted by: VercengetorixII | August 18, 2009 1:47 PM

Sorry I know I'm 5 hours late responding to this, but I just couldn't let this comment hang.

United should have THROWN the Firpo game? You're actually advocating that the team that proudly plays with the word TRADITION on their jerseys should throw a match?

What would throwing a match consist of? Would we play hard for 89 minutes, and then just let the opposing team score on us at the end? Would our players just sit down on the field and watch Firpo kick the ball into our net? Or maybe DC should have just forfeited outright? Any one of those scenarios sound totally embarassing to me. I, on the other hand, am proud of my team for fighting to a victory in the play-in round, knowing that it wasn't necessarily going to be the smartest choice for our playoff hopes. No true fan would ever say that their team should throw a game.

By the way, who are you? VercengetorixII? When have you said so often that United should throw CCL games? I looked at your profile on bigsoccer and on here and couldn't find where you said that once.

Posted by: DCUMD | August 18, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

until we start winning champion league games in convincing ways. we will always be an afterthought. if the champions league isnt taken seriously then it will never be a serious competetion either for that matter. we have to put as much into the champions league as does europeans. it will develop and we along with it.

if we can win the champions league. then our own league will be slim pickings. the problem is that at this point we wont do either. i have never heard so many players whining about the heat and number of games to be played.

Posted by: castroviejo | August 18, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Santino its makes complete sense, though I guess we should only expect you to give only a professional effort towards this game. If MLS teams can not prove they have the best teams in the region then is MLS really worth your time watching. Many Euro snobs already say it isn't, winning the Champions League would at least show that MLS is a serious league and is at least comparable to the Mexican Football League. MLS wants draw in the Latin fans in this country but MLS playoffs are not compelling enough to do that. Non-MLS fans don't care who won the MLS Cup if that same team can not go deep into its own regional tournament. Get out there and prove how good you are!

Posted by: degerron | August 18, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

The players should play hard in the CCL. Maybe they'll get noticed by Toluca or Cruz Azul and get to play in the Mexican league for big bucks!

Posted by: Senor_Funk | August 18, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Non-MLS fans don't care who won the MLS Cup if that same team can not go deep into its own regional tournament.

Posted by: degerron | August 18, 2009 8:59 PM

This.

Posted by: Pedalada | August 18, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Slammer, thanks for your reply

1. I will respectfully disagree that a slight seasonal shift wouldn't be in order and would mostly positively affect the league . Well, if we keep it the way it is, at least the league should make a concerted effort to pick up guys like nedved who is in form at the end of his season to play a half season in mls. I know it comes down to money, but....seems like a no brainer

2. you are probably right. soccer would need to be waaay bigger for relegation/promotion to be economically viable

3. i just think that more prestige should go to the long haul effort of season long best record.

Posted by: wordup1 | August 18, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

From the looks of all the Marathon fans disguised as yellow seats, it appears perhaps the CCL isn't all that big of a hit south of the border either.

I have a theory (the best kind that can neither be proven nor disputed) that the geographic distances in CONCACAF diminish interest in a regional champions league. In addition, this whole thing is new. Overall, the effect is that there seems to be a general lack of familiarity by an MLS fan (at least one like me with limited ties to Latin America) of Central American domestic leagues. Had I ever heard of Firpo before two weeks ago? Nope. Do I care that much about the CCL, when compared to the horror of missing the MLS play-offs again? Nope.

In Europe, they have the advantages of (1) countries are closer proximity to one another, (2) fans have more familiarity with other nations' players given world cup qualifying and the European championships, and (3) continental competitions have been around for many, many years.

So maybe this CCL thing could take off, but I understand the desire to focus on the Open Cup and the MLS regular season. If the key to the success of the game in the US is TV, then MLS needs one of its storied franchises (the only storied franchise?) in the playoffs and being a factor once there.

Posted by: Mixter | August 18, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Elephant in the room again - single entity MLS vs. real football.

The future of our football does not lay in this ridiculous franchise. The model is debilitating the game, and this is just another example.

Every MLS "club" is hamstrung by the league, micromanaged in every way by Garber and Co. In this light, Santino's comments are right on. Gotta get him to Europe before it's too late.

Then - we have to adopt the model that brought this game to global domination: Independent, autonomous clubs in an open league system featuring promotion and relegation.

Posted by: soccerreform | August 19, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

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