The USSF/MLS – CONCACAF conspiracy theory! (Part 1)
How could the USL outwit, outplay & outlast the MLS in the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League?
The answer is simple!
The level of play in the USL (as an alternative league) is closer to that of the MLS, than many (in the USSF and MLS) would like to admit to.
= Prelude =
In the 2008-09 CCL, the two classified USL teams showed heart and desire to succeed, while most of the MLS teams looked uninterested and took for granted their perceived superiority and got blown away by “so called” (inside of their bubble) lesser teams.
Many in the United States and Canada (and the world) cheered and watched as the USL’s Montreal Impact and Puerto Rico Islanders became quaterfinalists and semifinalists, taking on and progressing through the tournament over other Central American and Mexican favorites.
Eventually the USL cinderella teams fell to the Mexican greats: Montreal collapsed in front of Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals; and the Islanders went down via penalty kicks to Cruz Azul in the semifinals.
The USL actually enjoyed the largest home crowd to a single CCL game in the entire 2008-09 tournament: 55,000+ fans at Montreal’s Olympic stadium in the Impact’s 2-0 quaterfinal win over Santos Laguna.
In big contrast, 3 of the 4 MLS teams in the tournament fared horribly. In the preliminary round the New England Revolution was humiliated 1-6 (aggregate) by Trinidad’s Joe Public; while Chivas USA fell 1-3 (aggregate) to Panama’s Tauro FC.
To add insult to injury, these two MLS slayers were themselves slayed by the USL teams: the Islanders had a 4-3 (aggregate) over Tauro FC; and Montreal had a 6-1 (aggregate) over Joe Public. Neither Tauro FC or Joe Public came out alive of the Group Stages. Both USL teams did!
Two MLS teams were pre-classified to the CCL Groups Stage. One of them, DC United failed to win a single game (1 draw & 5 losses) in what was called the Group of Death.
The MLS may argue that DC United was placed in the toughest group with Mexico’s Cruz Azul, Costa Rica’s Saprissa and Honduras Marathon. But that theory goes down the drain with the USL Puerto Rico Islanders wasting Marathon 3-1 (aggregate) in the quarterfinals; and tying Cruz Azul 3-3 after 120 minutes only to fall to the Mexicans in penalty kicks.
Only the MLS Houston Dynamo was able to save face for the league, surviving the Group Stage, before falling to the eventual CCL Champion Mexico’s Atlante in the quarterfinals.
The USL teams last year not only enjoyed a great cinderella run, but also the luck that had they met, it would have been in the CCL Championship match. The Islanders and Montreal were drawn on different brackets in the finals and therefore couln’t face eachother until the end.
One would imagine that the success of the North American based USL would have made the USSF and MLS proud, but such couldn’t be the case. The MLS is recognized by the USSF as the 1st division of soccer in the U.S.A. The success of the USL (another American league) was just an embarrasement to the MLS who got mocked all over the CONCACAF region for their awful level of international play when compared to the “inferior” (inside the USSF/MLS bubble) USL.
The problem (from the USSF and MLS perspective) is that the USL success and world gained recognition thanks to the CCL tournament was achieved by two teams that were not “U.S.A.” teams. The Puerto Rico Islanders classified to the CCL via the Caribbean Football Union’s Championship; and the Montreal Impact via the Nutilite Canadian Championship.
Two non-American teams showed how close the USL level is to the MLS at the international level (where it actually really counts!).
The CCL participation destiny of these two USL teams could not be negatively influenced by the USSF or the MLS. These two USL teams didn’t need to compete in a big (40+ teams) and difficult tournament (the U.S. Cup) for just ONE spot to the CCL!!!
Meanwhile, thanks to the USSF, the MLS with its proven inferior international quality gets to embarrass itself with three free undeserved CCL spots.
What could the USSF/MLS do to prevent such an embarrassment in the 2000-10 CCL tournament?
If the MLS couldn’t show off their USL counterparts on the field, then get rid of them off the field!
Have the USL teams drawn against each other in the CCL preliminary round!
At least one of the two USL teams wouldn’t make it to the Group Stages.
Except that sometimes the best-laid plans go awry…
The Conspiracy! [Part 2 to be continued…]