CCL 2013-14 Qualifiers: Three Shots (Plus: FULL Hexagonal Calendar)

Posted on November 7, 2012 8:46 pm

Let me start by getting some housecleaning out of the way: due to a large influx of spam, I have resorted to emptying the folder without thumbing through the dozens of pages for a legitimate entry that might have ended up there by mistake. If you have submitted a comment that does not appear within eight hours, either try again or “start a conversation” with me on BigSoccer to address the issue. 1

On to tonight’s proceedings: previously, heading into the MLS Cup quarterfinals, all the hand-me-down scenarios for US berths in the CONCACAF Champions League focused on the Western Conference, with Real Salt Lake benefiting from the LA Galaxy’s dominance last year. A pair of changes, however, have shifted the dynamic across the country: first, Sporting Kansas City put an end to Seattle’s run of US Open Cup triumphs by edging the Sounders on penalties at LiveStrong Sporting Park. Second, following Major League Soccer’s decision to abandon the balanced schedule and regionalize for the next two years, with teams playing the majority of their regular season fixtures against in-conference opponents, a pair of East Coast rivals made the most of the extra games against table-propping Toronto FC (and fewer against the San Jose Earthquakes) to finish right behind the Champions League qualifiers.

After a bizarre first leg that ended with an own goal each and Andy Najar receiving a second yellow for throwing the ball at referee Jair Marrufo, the MLS Cup quarterfinal between DC United and the New York Red Bulls shifts to Red Bull Arena this evening at 8:30 p.m. (all times EST). 2 Either one will be able to mark their return to the CCL by reaching the MLS Cup Final; but thanks to their regular-season finish, Ben Olsen’s side holds a pair of continental trump cards in its collective back pocket. If either San Jose or Kansas City reach the MLS Cup Final, they will pass down the extra CCL spot to MLS’s most successful club; and if both face off in northern California (the Earthquakes’ current home stadium has already been ruled out), then New York will also receive a hand-me-down spot.

There even exists a possibility for DC to guarantee their reappearance on the continental stage tonight: at 9:00 p.m., the second Eastern Conference finalist will be determined as Sporting try and dig themselves out of a 2-0 hole against the Houston Dynamo. In the event that both Kansas City and DC United survive, either the latter will reach the MLS Cup Final, or the former will do so and leave the USA4 berth in the nation’s capital. Here I must admit: having yet to attend a CCL match (Saprissa fell out of the 2008-09 edition before my spring semester in Costa Rica), I am pulling for this scenario to play itself out, in order to catch some international football at RFK Stadium next year, beyond the possibility of a Gold Cup double-header and a US World Cup match.

On the other side of the MLS playoff bracket, however, it’s every club for itself. While San Jose will make their debut next season, the experienced trio of the Galaxy, RSL and Seattle will only be able to join them in the CCL by conquering the West and reaching the MLS Cup Final. The defending league champions will have to overcome a 1-0 deficit when they play San Jose at Buck Shaw Stadium at 11:00 p.m., while the Sounders attempt to break the 0-0 deadlock and finally win a playoff series as they travel to take on RSL tomorrow at 11:00 p.m. You can check out the television/online schedule for the US and Canada here; and as a reminder, there are no higher-seed or away-goal tiebreakers in effect if the games are even at the end of the second leg, so extra time is a strong possibility.

UPDATE: the snowstorm caused by the Nor’easter has forced the suspension of the NY-DC game for tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network, while KC-Houston has been bumped up to NBCSN for this evening.

Another online broadcast will capture the attention of football fans throughout the region this evening: at 8:00 p.m., CONCACAF will stream the draw for the Hexagonal calendar live. As far as I can remember, this is completely novel for our corner of the world; here’s hoping that pressure from the participants in CONCACAF’s primary competitions will force General Secretary Enrique Sanz to consolidate the live draw as a regular occurrence for the CCL and the Gold Cup, even if the latter only sets up the groups, with the venues selected later for the biggest draws to play in their key markets.

UPDATE: here is the full schedule for the Hexagonal.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013:

Mexico vs. Jamaica
Honduras vs. USA
Panama vs. Costa Rica

Friday, March 22:

Jamaica vs. Panama
Honduras vs. Mexico
USA vs. Costa Rica

Tuesday, March 26:

Mexico vs. USA
Panama vs. Honduras
Costa Rica vs. Jamaica

Tuesday, June 4:

Jamaica vs. Mexico

Friday, June 7:

Jamaica vs. USA
Panama vs. Mexico
Costa Rica vs. Honduras

Tuesday, June 11:

Mexico vs. Costa Rica
Honduras vs. Jamaica
USA vs. Panama

Tuesday, June 18:

USA vs. Honduras
Costa Rica vs. Panama

Friday, September 6:

Mexico vs. Honduras
Panama vs. Jamaica
Costa Rica vs. USA

Tuesday, September 10:

Jamaica vs. Costa Rica
Honduras vs. Panama
USA vs. Mexico

Friday, October 11:

Mexico vs. Panama
Honduras vs. Costa Rica
USA vs. Jamaica

Tuesday, October 15:

Jamaica vs. Honduras
Panama vs. USA
Costa Rica vs. Mexico

CCL 2013-14 Qualifiers

1. Sporting Kansas City [USA4]
2. San Jose Earthquakes [USA2]

1 – I do pass on the site regularly, but am not glued to it all day.
2 – Although DC United is the higher-ranked team, MLS decided to switch the order of the home-and-away series in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

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