Just in case everyone isn’t clear, CONCACAF Champions League is important to Major League Soccer. About as important as properly inflated balls or sufficient supplies of beer in the stadium concession areas from the sound of it.
What MLS commissioner Don Garber told Sporting News in a recent interview: “We’ve got to try to win that tournament. We’ve got to try to get to the world club championship. That’s got to be a priority.”
And what Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said last Friday, immediately after a Western Conference-shaping win over Vancouver: “I’m ready. I’m ready right now to go home and scout Herediano and do everything we can so that we are very properly prepared. This is a big, big deal to our club, a big, big deal to our fans, and a huge deal to everybody in the locker room.”
So there. That’s one side. Me?
Success in any competition will help at a micro level. That is, it stirs up buzz and adds momentum for individual clubs.
But I must admit that I’m always a little skeptical about how much success in CONCACAF Champions League can assist over larger sweeps, how it would boost MLS in the league’s most pressing areas for growth.
Would an MLS club finally getting to the FIFA Club World Cup help boost league pride and prestige? Sure. Would a few more players from lands beyond put MLS on their personal “consider” list. Yeah, a few.
But would it significantly enhance TV ratings (and, subsequently, revenue during the next round of network talks)? Nah.
Would it help D.C. United get a stadium? Highly unlikely. Would it encourage New England ownership to expedite its stadium initiative, or further encourage Chivas USA to develop a brand identity that works? I think we know better.
Would it boost attendance in markets that continue to tread water, like Chivas USA, Columbus, Dallas, Colorado and New England? Only if one of them won it.
Would it help MLS gin up awareness in the dozens of U.S. mid-sized markets where so precious little exists? (Go ask people in Austin or Albuquerque or Atlanta about MLS.)
Would it assist in efforts to improve the refereeing standard here and in Canada, which would boost the overall quality (and appeal) of matches? Nope.
Would it further improve the youth development mechanisms or add money required to further enhance the reserve team elements? Doubtful.
But that’s just me. Plenty of people feel differently. Obviously.