Posted on June 5, 2012 10:57 am
One of the more spectacular aspects of our sport is the extent to which the fans, supporters, casuals and the everyday man and woman can affect the game itself.
The intimidating atmosphere on display in various venues in our region, most notably in Mexico and Central America, factors directly into the calculations made by coaches and federations ahead of continental tournaments. For instance, the imposing, bellicose presence of Salvadoran fans at the Estadio Cuscatlan suffices in and of itself to dissuade the Mexican national team from taking the three points on offer for granted, in spite of their considerable advantage in talent. On another level, two of the yearly qualifiers for the CONCACAF Champions League earn their tickets by virtue of claiming fan-made trophies: the Supporter’s Shield in the United States, and the Voyageurs’ Cup in Canada. And maybe, one day, the CONCACAF Player of the Year will receive something more prestigious than a dusted-off trophy from Dan Loney’s attic.
Without having taken part in any of the closed-door discussions in New York regarding the new CCL format, I cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my writing, as well as the encouragement of regular reader It’s Called FOOTBALL, impacted the decision announced yesterday. All I can do is provide a series of events and let you decide for yourself. As well, if there was any causation at hand, I would simply like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to have influenced one of my favorite tournaments, in a region that I am proud to call my own.
January 12, 2012: CONCACAF announces the new format for the CONCACAF Champions League, with the preliminary round discontinued and all 24 qualifiers guaranteed to play in eight groups of three, with only group winners advancing to the quarterfinals.
April 13, 2012: I publish an entry on The Regional Review calling for the group winners to be seeded for the knockout round, based on their performance in the first stage.
April 14-15, 2012: Long-time reader It’s Called FOOTBALL suggests that I write directly to CONCACAF with my proposal.
April 15, 2012: I send the following message to CONCACAF.
Subject: Champions League Suggestion
From: Paul Calixte (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sunday, April 15, 2012 3:46 PM
To whom it may concern at CONCACAF:
As I wrote in a recent column, one element of the new format for the CONCACAF Champions League that has yet to be specified is the procedure by which the knockout round is to be set up. This becomes particularly important when taking into account one consequence of the reform: with only group winners moving on, there is no longer any merit-based differentiation between the quarterfinalists (before, group winners and runners-up fell in different pots, so that teams could earn the right to host the second leg of their quarterfinal series and avoid tougher opponents by winning their groups).
I would like to propose that the group winners be ranked according to their performance in the group stage, similar to the format used in the Copa Libertadores (and to one of the suggestions offered by Monterrey Club President Luis Miguel Salvador last year). More explicitly, I would advocate the revision of Article 2.2.3 of the CCL Regulations by striking subpoint c (the new format renders it vestigial) and rewriting subpoints d through i in the following manner:
“d. The teams will be ranked from one to eight based on the following criteria:
- Greater number of points earned in the group stage
- Greater goal difference in all group matches
- Greater number of goals scored away from home in all group matches
- Greater number of points earned in matches against the group runner-up only
- Greater goal difference in matches against the runner-up
- Greater number of goals scored away from home against the runner-up
- Drawing of lots
e. The highest-ranked team will play against the lowest-ranked team in the quarterfinals, and the winner will be paired with the winner of the series between the fourth and fifth-ranked teams in the semifinals. The second-ranked team will play against the seventh-ranked team in the quarterfinals, and the winner will be paired with the winner of the series between the third and sixth-ranked teams in the semifinals.
f. Throughout the knockout round, the highest-ranked team will play the second leg at home.”
Subpoints j through l would be retained as points g through i.
Besides encouraging participants to put their best effort into all group stage matches, such a change would allow for the knockout round to be set up entirely based on the performances of the teams involved. With this, you would no longer have to entertain complaints about favoritism, discrimination or any other accusation of manipulation on your part, since (after designating the initial groups for the CCL) the results would be out of your hands. In the absence of a live draw, ranking the quarterfinalists is the best means for ensuring confidence in the tournament from coaches, players, fans and the media, a key component of growing its prestige and importance throughout the region.
Thank you in advance for considering my proposal.
June 4, 2012: CONCACAF reveals its decision regarding the CCL knockout round.
As only the group winners will advance, the draw also will in effect determine the knockout Championship Round pairings as well. The team that finishes with the best record in the Group Stage will face the team with the eighth-best record in the quarterfinals. Two will play seven, three will play six, and four will face five.
Likewise, the semifinal pairings also will be determined with the winner of 1-vs-8 advancing against the winner of 4-vs-5, and 3-vs-6 facing 2-vs-7.