CONCACAF held its group stage draw for this year’s Champions League, hammering home a harsh truth: This format is really happening.
Four-team groups? Oh, no. Not for you. You liked it? It’s the standard format for this kinda thing? Well, suck it, loyal CCL fan that’s keeping this tournament alive, and get ready for …
Three-team groups! That’s right. Three. Not four. It’s the squagel of groups! (Link features strong language.)
I alluded to this when talking about the horribly written LOST episode that is African World Cup qualifying, but when you cut down on the number of games and only let the top team go through, you’re begging for randomness to happen. And if we’ve learned anything from the U.S. Open Cup, nothing says legitimate, respected championship like inexplicable randomness.
There are fewer travel dates, there more teams are in group stage (all teams are in group stage), and each team is guaranteed a second home game (against at least one prominent team), so there are positives. The negatives? Other than inviting more aberrational results, shortening the principle part of the tournament, and doing so with a sneaking suspicion that reducing cross-hemisphere flights was a concern (and in fairness, things like that are a legitimate concern), there are no negatives.
There’s still going to be a tournament, a winner, and all the bragging rights that go with it. I really shouldn’t be such a curmudgeon.
Five Major League Soccer teams are in group stage. Toronto gets another shot at Santos in Group 1. Real Salt Lake got a relatively sweet draw in Group 2. Houston’s not quite as lucky, but Group 3 could have been worse. Seattle should be fine in Group 4, while who knows with LA Galaxy. Group 5 looks easy, but we shouldn’t overestimate this Galaxy team.
Group 1: Santos Laguna (Mexico), Toronto FC (Canada), Aguila (El Salvador)
Group 2: Herediano (Costa Rica), Real Salt Lake (United States), Tauro (Panama)
Group 3: Olimpia (Honduras), Houston Dynamo (United States), FAS (El Salvador)
Group 4: Seattle Sounders (United States), Marathon (Honduras), [Caribbean qualifier]
Group 5: LA Galaxy (United States), Isidro Metapan (El Salvador), [Caribbean qualifier]
Group 6: Tigres (Mexico), Alajuelense (Costa Rica), Real Esteli (Nicaragua)
Group 7: Chorrillo (Panama), Monterrey (Mexico), Municipal (Guatemala)
Group 8: Xelaju (Guatemala), Guadalajara (Mexico), [Caribbean qualifer]