Friday, May 8, 2015

Montreal, MLS, Duka and CCL

A little while back I posted up some thoughts on the Montreal Impact and their CCL run / Final over at Massive Report. I'm late linking to it from here because I wanted to get some more thoughts down about it after I simmered down (but I haven't!).

1. It might not seem like it now but down the road I think it's a big deal that they made it as far as they did. What people forget (or don't bother looking up) is that the current make up of the CONCACAF Champions League is less than 8 years old. A team from the US or Canada have never won it but two have made the finals. For me, that's a huge achievement. Not because MLS is the plucky start-up that's facing the mountains of Liga MX money. It's because of MLS. All the damn roster rules and convoluted scheduling, lack of meaningful games, etc etc.

2. MLS bastardizing their own regular season to lighten Montreal's load (also devalues CCL). The general consensus is that MLS schedule holds MLS teams back in the CCL but in reality there are also many positives. While MLS teams aren't at their best during the early knockout stages of the tournament, they are at their best in the group stage (mid summer / fall) and final stages (early spring). MLS can schedule around the CCL in the spring (which they did for all participants) and, in a wrinkle this year, they ended up giving Montreal the ENTIRE MONTH of April off. This doesn't happen with Liga MX clubs (or other leagues in CONCACAF). In fact, America was playing a huge rivalry game with Chivas right in the middle of the final legs with the Impact. MLS blowing up their own schedule to make way combined with all the summer friendlies (Columbus Crew SC just announced one with Valencia) devalues the regular season to the point of exhibition (or even lower). It also hurts the reputation of the CCL itself.

3. Money and Talent. Let's get a common misconception out of the way right now: MLS carries the largest individual player contracts in both North and South America. It's been this way for a few years now and only grown since the league has over spent on USMNT players. But structure, again, rears it's head here in that teams are so hamstrung by roster rules on how to spend. Designated Player rules are the main culprit. Not only do many teams fill those slots with aging stars who can't compete with all the travel or play twice a week, you have such a large % of the cap eaten up and have to surround them with above average college players. Where Liga MX clubs have the advantage is exactly here. They have deeper rosters with better players. As a matter of fact, America was having to use this depth. Can you imagine Montreal having to dig down past their normal 18-20? Or even if they had to face a full strength Club America? Actually, I can. We saw a full strength Cruz Azul absolutely embarrass Sporting KC last year.

4. Former Crew guys Dilly Duka and Dom Oduro played huge roles on a Montreal team where most of the players have less than 5 games together. You see the comment about the Impact being a last place team, and they are, but they have a total of 4 games played so far in MLS. Pointing to last year doesn't work either. It's a completely different team this year.

Anyhow. I think I've gotten most of this CCL stuff off my chest. I like the competition a lot, and think it will eventually overtake things like the Gold Cup in popularity, but unless MLS changes things in their foundation (no, not blowing up their schedule or signing players for one game) they will always be on the outside looking in on this.

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