By J Hutcherson - WASHINGTON, DC (Aug 24, 2012) US Soccer Players – We'll start by picking up on the CONCACAF Champions League conversation from Wednesday. The quick version can be summarized by Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. Following last night's game, he somewhat rhetorically asked: "I sometimes wonder why we spend all the resources and time we do in this competition when sometimes it looks really bizarre."
Now granted, Arena was talking about what he felt was a questionable call that led to an even more questionable red card for one of his star players. We were talking about the tournament as a while. Anyway, here's our first question.
Jeff writes: If the Champions League - or whatever you want to call it - were to be fixed, what's step one? I think the main problem is identity. There's not a single place to get all the information, watch the games, and feel like this is really important.
I think CONCACAF's website would disagree, and they deserve credit for making the games available. Where you have a point is in quality. There's certainly not the same feel you get when the broadcast for the UEFA Champions League starts. That takes more than an official anthem. It's the overall quality control. Though I don't disagree with your point, it's not first on my list.
For me, it's a twist on quality control, and that's making it harder to get into the group stage. CONCACAF has made the group stage decidedly more difficult this season, but there's still the feeling that too many teams are making up the numbers. That's a problem in Europe as well, only partially solved by the multi-stage qualifying some teams have to maneuver to even make it into a group.
CONCACAF club soccer isn't at the level where we can assume parity across leagues. We can't even assume that when comparing Major League Soccer to Liga MX. Inclusiveness is a worthy ideal, but the current reality is that too many clubs don't belong in the Champions League proper. You fix that by multiple stage qualifying. Unfortunately, CONCACAF went in the opposite direction and made the problem worse by dropping the preliminary round.
Part of that is pragmatic. They need a lot of teams to justify the Champions League model. Still, competitively there's a format before considering the quality of participants problem that's only gotten worse. Giant killer stories are always intriguing, but they need to be based on more than forcing games into a schedule and hoping the occasional upset justifies involving so many clubs.
No name provided writes: I would like to see regional qualifying for the Champions League. CONCACAF already splits North, Central, and Caribbean, so why not make those qualifying zones? North America would be the hardest but they could give them the most slots. It could be like the UEFA formula that awards the most places to the strongest leagues, except here it would be the strongest zones.
I really wish we had your name, because writing 'nicely done, no name provided' seems a little silly.
Dre writes: Do you agree that (the CONACAF Champions League) needs a new name, and if so what would you call it?
Yes, and thanks for the comment in the original article. I know it's a mixed message with comments and asking people to send emails so we have enough material for a letters column. I don't care if you cut and paste your comment into an email and I'm not above picking up a comment and running it here. Anyhow, something that doesn't require qualifying it to separate it from the real Champions League? That's my primary objection. Dropping "CONCACAF" in front of "Champions League" requires doing the same for UEFA, demonstrating the silliness in name jumping. I know we're all supposed to be part of one happy footballing family, but at least be original with your work.
Mexico rebranded their topflight and didn't go with "Premier League." They came up with a unique branded identity. It's not liga, it's Liga MX. CONCACAF adding 'league' was a mission statement, but at the same time it also creates a restraint. Should they need to revert to a tournament that's the equivalent of the current knockout stage, it's hard to call that a league. In fact, it's a reach to call the original Champions League a league but at least our European friends get credit for originality.
Frank writes: How important was the Mexico win in the recent history of the US since the 1980's?
There was a postgame quote from Landon Donovan that I thought made this point better than any of the lists I've seen. “At the end of the day, we don’t win any trophies for winning tonight and we don’t get any points for it, but considering the history so we’re going to enjoy it tonight.”
Comments, questions, solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves. Please, tell me all about it.
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