CCL 2013-14 Qualifiers: Comparative Playoffs

Posted on November 23, 2012 9:45 pm

Class, here are the two cases we will consider today:

In Country A, the league playoffs are set up as home-and-away series from the quarterfinals on (with the exception of the Final). This year, with only one exception, the higher seed has been eliminated every time.

In Country B, the league playoffs are set up as home-and-away series from the quarterfinals on. This year, with only one possible exception, the higher seed has advanced every time.

What can we conclude from this information?

Oh yes, you are right, and I see you did the reading for this week. There is a detail I left out: in Country A, a tie after 180 minutes goes straight to extra time, while Country B employs away goals and gives a tie after that to the higher seed. It should be noted, though, that none of the completed series in Country B was decided on these aforementioned tiebreakers.

With that said, I return to my original question and modify it: is there sufficient information for Country A to consider reforming its current playoff structure, perhaps through adopting the measures implemented in Country B?

While you all work on your answers, let me bring up an argument that no one is discussing at the moment: in the first couple of years following the conversion of the CONCACAF Champions Cup to the current Champions League, an oft-repeated complaint from Major League Soccer fans accused the tournament of tiring out teams and leaving them without the necessary energy to make a run at the MLS Cup (see: Houston Dynamo 2008, Columbus Crew 2009, Real Salt Lake 2010). This year, the first rounds of the CCL got streamlined with domestic campaigns in mind, and the early returns in the US justified the reasoning behind the decision. In the ongoing MLS playoffs, the four US teams involved in the current CCL have only been eliminated by fellow CCL participants, while everyone else has fallen by the wayside. Of the four, only Real Salt Lake could still include continental burnout among the excuses for underwhelming in the postseason; mind you, they would only have themselves to blame, as the sole US club to lose a road game in the group stage.

While MLS takes a break for the Galaxy to sell out their stadium for a second-straight home final/David Beckham’s farewell match, we will satisfy our playoff appetites by looking further south, where unexpected teams making runs at the championship appears the order of the day. First, at 9:00 p.m. this evening (all times EST) on RPCTV, the recently-promoted Rio Abajo will attempt to claw their way back from a 0-2 deficit against Chepo, who themselves came within 15 minutes of tumbling out of the Panamanian first division last year. UPDATE: any victory by at least three goals will do for the hosts, while a two-goal win would force overtime; otherwise, Chepo will reach their second-straight LPF Final.

The winner will face the more traditional power that emerges on Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday, as Arabe Unido host Plaza Amador at 9:00 p.m. on TV Max (UPDATE: the channel is working now). Colon’s finest hold a 3-1 advantage, and anything better than a defeat by two goals at the Estadio Agustin “Muquita” Sanchez will bring them one step closer to returning to the Champions League. Plaza Amador will chase the relative miracle, however, since they remain the only one of the local grandes yet to reach the Promised Land.

Should Arabe Unido somehow manage to lose the plot and crash out, Panama will send at least one debutant to the next Champions League. Mexico is already guaranteed at least one new face in next season’s competition, though, and chances of the same occurring in Honduras are currently even.

On Sunday at 1:00 p.m., Toluca will receive America with a similar assignment to that of their fellow CCL veterans in Panama. After silencing the rare sold-out Estadio Azteca by winning 2-0 in the first leg, only a defeat by three goals or by 1-3, 2-4, 3-5 etc. would allow the aguilas to overcome the best team from the regular season (on aggregate or away goals, respectively). Otherwise, Toluca will mark their return to the CCL; and if they can keep up their current form, the choriceros will have to be considered among the favorites to win the whole thing.

Before getting to the more intriguing tie in the Liga MX playoffs, we will divert our attention to Honduras, where only two of the four grandes still retain hopes of conquering the 2012 Apertura.

After San Pedro Sula giants Marathon and Real Espana surprisingly bowed out in the quarterfinals, Tegucigalpa foes Olimpia and Motagua will take on less-heralded sides chasing their first-ever appearance on the continental stage. At 5:00 p.m., Motagua will host the first leg of their semifinal series with the higher-seeded Victoria, whose fourth-place run in the 2006 UNCAF Clubs Cup remains the only international experience on the club’s resume. An hour later, at 6:00 p.m., regular season table-toppers Olimpia will head northwest for the first leg of their semifinal with Atletico Choloma, who only reached the Honduran Liga Nacional last year.

The hosts still need to survive two rounds of playoffs to complete the transition from second-division purgatory to the heights of continental football; back in Mexico, we can already anticipate at least one club realizing this dream later on. At 7:30 p.m., the Xoloitzcuintles of Tijuana will receive Leon, in a match between the last two clubs to climb the ladder out of the second division. Both have sealed their places in the 2013 Copa Libertadores by virtue of their regular-season performance; and whichever team moves on to the Apertura final will guarantee itself international games throughout the next calendar year (and a shot at the league title, of course). The panzas verdes made full use of their raucous home crowd in Guanajuato on Thursday, punishing Tijuana for three minutes of carelessness and bringing a 2-0 lead up to the Estadio Caliente. Here is where the playoff tiebreakers in effect set the stage for a wild affair: a 2-0 win for Antonio “el Turco” Mohamed’s side will send them through to the Final as the higher seed. Should Leon pull one back, however, they would regain on the advantage on away goals, forcing Tijuana to chase two more. The battle between these Liga de Ascenso graduates promises plenty of goals and yet more history for the eventual winner.

CCL 2013-14 Qualifiers

1. Sporting Kansas City [USA4]
2. San Jose Earthquakes [USA2]
3. Houston Dynamo [USA1 or USA3]
4. LA Galaxy [USA1 or USA3]
5. Toluca FC [MEX1, MEX2 or MEX3]
6. Club Tijuana [MEX1, MEX2 or MEX3]

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