Monday, January 23, 2017

CONCACAF Champions League Changes

Today CONCACAF announced changes in the Champions League format starting with the 2017-18 cycle the Rapids have qualified for.  Instead of playing in a group stage this fall, MLS teams will move right to a 16-team knockout tournament held in Feb-May of 2018.  The 4 MLS qualifiers will be joined in the tournament by 4 Mexican teams, the Canadian champion, the 5 major Central American league champs (all but Belize and Nicaragua), the Caribbean Club Champion, and the winner of the fall 2017 CCL tournament.  That tournament will now be contested by the 2 best teams from Nicaragua, the champion of Belize, the 2nd and 3rd placed teams from the other 5 Central American countries, and 3 Caribbean teams.

Essentially this changes the CCL into a small countries tournament and large countries tournament.  The results of each year's tournaments will be factored in to seeding for future years so countries can move up to the large tournament or down to the small one depending on results.  The benefit of this is to reduce schedule crowding for bigger teams who are playing games against minnows that they are (largely) winning easily.  It also allows those smaller clubs to play reasonable competition and not get blown out regularly.

As noted both in the CONCACAF and MLS releases, these changes do not effect which teams have qualified for the next cycle, despite the MLS teams not starting play until after the 2017 qualifiers would be decided.  Instead of playing a 3 team group stage this fall with two home and two road games between August and October the Rapids will play their first CCL game as a home-and-home knockout in February of 2018.  That will actually help our schedule congestion this fall and hopefully, with a good draw, we'll see a beatable team in preseason next year.

This leaves MLS in an odd place though as teams who qualify for the CCL won't start playing in it for over a year.  I expect we'll see an announcement before the season starts that there will be no teams that qualify for CCL in 2017.  Then the qualifiers will return in 2018.  That will mean that the teams that were already announced as having qualified will play in in 2018 and thee teams that qualify will play in 2019 and so on.  This allows MLS to "catch up" while not pulling a CCL spot from an already qualified team.

Unrelated, we got confirmation of Alan Gordon's signing today.

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