CCL 2012-13 Qualifiers: The Twilight Zone

Posted on May 5, 2012 12:24 am

Here is an indication of how bizarre the qualification process for the next CONCACAF Champions League has become:

Chivas de Guadalajara can still make it.

I am not making this up.

Before we get into this weekend’s matches in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, I will adjust the list of qualifiers based on CONCACAF’s recent announcement, as well as break down the regulations published by the Mexican Football Federation for dealing with hand-me-down situations in the Clausura playoffs.

First, according to yesterday’s news release from New York, the spot reserved for Belize has been awarded to El Salvador, with FAS the main beneficiary. I have already stated my reaction to this decision; as far as our list is concerned, until such a time as Once Municipal successfully challenge the ruling, FAS will remain as the third and last of the Salvadoran qualifiers. The Clausura Final between Isidro Metapan and Aguila this Sunday will not be directly addressed here, as it will have no effect on the CCL status of either side.

On to Mexico: the official tiebreaker rules in case of double qualification for the Champions League may seem convoluted at first, but they become sensible once we remember how the Mexican berths are distributed:

MEX1 – Apertura winner
MEX2 – Clausura winner
MEX3 – Apertura runner-up
MEX4 – Clausura runner-up

The general rule of thumb is this: in case a hand-me-down spot becomes available, including if Santos Laguna move up to MEX2, the spot will be awarded based on its corresponding tournament. So, to go through the scenarios:

- If Tigres reach the Clausura Final (against someone other than Santos), then they will remain as MEX1, and their opponent will receive the MEX2 spot (handed down, if Tigres win). Santos Laguna remains as MEX3, and MEX4 would go to the highest team in the Clausura table not yet qualified for the CCL: Monterrey (unless Tigres play Monterrey in the Final, in which case MEX4 will go to the next highest team in the Clausura table, América).

- If Santos Laguna reach the Clausura Final (against someone other than Tigres) and win, then they move up to MEX2, the runner-up qualifies as MEX4, and MEX3 gets passed along to the highest team in the Apertura table not yet qualified for the CCL: Chivas.

- If Santos Laguna reach the Clausura Final (against someone other than Tigres) and lose, however, everyone will laugh at them. Oh, and Chivas are out of luck: Santos will remain as MEX3, and MEX4 will be passed on to Monterrey (or América, if Monterrey beat Santos again).

- Lastly, if Tigres and Santos Laguna play each other again in the Final, then Tigres will remain as MEX1, Santos will move up to MEX2, MEX3 will drop to Chivas and MEX4 to Monterrey.

If you are a Tigres fan, the stomach-churning takeaway is this: your team will do its crosstown rivals a favor by making the Final.

Whether any of this will matter depends on how this weekend’s matches turn out; but instead of heading straight into the Mexican liguilla, we will begin in chronological order with tonight’s curtain-raiser in the Panamanian Clausura semifinals. At 10:00 p.m. (all times EST), Sporting San Miguelito kicked off the first leg of their series with Tauro; unfortunately, both RPCTV and TV Max were preoccupied with baseball, so I could not find any broadcast information on this game. One might find it odd that the higher-seeded Sporting are hosts this evening; but both matches are scheduled to take place at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, rendering the “home” and “away” designations trivial.

A quick side note related to the above picture: if any of you FC Dallas fans lost your banner in Panama last year, I believe it has turned up.

Saturday’s action begins in Honduras at 2:00 p.m., as Motagua receive Marathon at the Estadio Tiburcio Carias Andino. UPDATE: Soccerway apparently put up the wrong start time; according to La Prensa, it will begin at 9:00 p.m. Before getting into the particulars of this game, I should mention a tragic event that occurred in the first leg of this series: apparently a shouting match between fans of both sides devolved into a literal shootout, leaving one dead and five injured. Needless to say, this sort of violence has no place in our game, and I can only hope that the necessary security measures are taken for the safety of all those in attendance.

On the field, Marathon are obligated to chase the victory, as any draw will favor Amado Guevara and the higher-seeded Motagua. The Tegucigalpa club, however, find themselves in a similar predicament as Tigres: should they eliminate Marathon, Motagua will hand over Honduras’s top seed in the next CCL to none other than Olimpia. Then again, if they do not reach the Final, then Motagua themselves will miss out on continental play next season, so the potential benefit for their archrivals will simply have to be tolerated.

The second legs of the Mexican Clausura quarterfinals will commence later on, as América host Pachuca at 7:00 p.m. The aguilas ran riot in the Estadio Hidalgo in midweek, bringing home a 3-1 series lead; and with the benefit of a higher seed, only losing by three or more at the Estadio Azteca will cost them their first appearance in the semifinal round in years.

Then, at 9:00 p.m., defending CCL champions Monterrey will receive the typically-feisty Xolos de Tijuana at the Estadio Tecnologico. Thanks to a golazo from Angel Reyna, the regios simply need to avoid losing by two or more to hold up their 2-1 advantage. The last match of the evening will take place in Costa Rica at 10:00 p.m., as Santos de Guapiles rake in the dough by hosting the second leg of their series with Saprissa at the Estadio Nacional. The players may be miffed at having to win (any score will do) in front of a pro-Saprissa crowd, but at least this match should ensure that they get paid on time.

The winner will not have to wait long to find out who they will face in the next round: on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (available on Teletica), Perez Zeledon will host Herediano with the comfort of knowing that only a loss will prevent them from not only reaching the Torneo de Verano Final, but playing the second leg at their own stadium – a just reward for their strong start and consistent play this season. As far as Alajuelense’s fortunes are concerned, assuming that UNAFUT continues to include playoff results in the full-year table, a Saprissa-Herediano final will force “Liga” to accept the CRC2 spot, while a Perez Zeledon-Santos de Guapiles final guarantees the manudos Costa Rica’s top seed.

The Panamanian playoffs will continue at 5:00 p.m., as Chepo FC, a team that avoided relegation in 2011 in the last game of the season, receive Arabe Unido (LPF Radio will carry the game). Behind the scenes, the Apertura champions Chorrillo will be pulling for the old guard to win out: if Arabe Unido or Tauro win the Clausura title, then Chorrillo will get to keep Panama’s top seed, while a historic triumph for Sporting or Chepo will force them to fight for their lives as the lowest seed in what surely will be a prohibitively difficult group.

Around this time, the CFU Club Champions Cup will finally pop up on our radar, as the second round of the tournament will start in Trinidad and Tobago. At this point, two groups of four teams will feed into a final group of four from which three (professional) clubs will reach the continental stage, and the first of these groups will kick off at 5:30 p.m., as hosts W Connection take on Victory of Haiti at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.

UPDATE: At 6:00 p.m., the Honduran Final will be set, as Olimpia finish off their semifinal with Real España; unless the visiting aurinegros win by two, Honduras’s most successful team will once again reach the championship, although its CCL fortunes depend more on the other series.

Up north, at 7:00 p.m., Mexican superlíder Santos Laguna will look to bury the curse as they host Jaguares, knowing that only a two-goal defeat will prevent them from reaching the semifinals…then again, fellow hard-luckers Cruz Azul succumbed to a similar fate against Pumas in the 2010 Apertura.

Afterwards, at 7:30 p.m., Antigua Barracuda will make their international debut against Suriname’s Inter Moengotapoe, back in the second-round group in Trinidad and Tobago. The USL-Pro outfit will want to make a good impression on their first outing, since losing to a team that the CFU barred from CCL play in their favor would be rather embarrassing, I imagine.

This weekend’s fixtures will wrap up at 9:00 p.m., as defending Mexican league champions Tigres head down to Michoacan for the second leg of their series with Morelia. Should Hector Mancilla and co. hold on and either win or draw at the Estadio Morelos, they will be one step closer to helping Monterrey keep their continental dynasty alive achieving the first domestic bicampeonato in almost a decade.

CCL 2012-13 Qualifiers

1. Seattle Sounders [USA2]
2. LA Galaxy [USA1]
3. Real Salt Lake [USA4]
4. Houston Dynamo [USA3]
5. Chorrillo FC [PAN1 or PAN2]
6. Santos Laguna [MEX2 or MEX3]
7. Tigres UANL [MEX1]
8. Olimpia [HON1 or HON2]
9. Isidro Metapán [SLV1]
10. Municipal [GUA1 or GUA2]
11. LD Alajuelense [CRC1 or CRC2]
12. Real Estelí [NCA]
13. Águila [SLV2]
14. FAS (SLV) [BLZ]
15. Marathón [HON1 or HON2]

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