Editorial (December 20, 2017) – The drawing for the knockout stage of the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League took place on Monday night. All five MLS teams in the competition found out their Round of 16 opponent and place in the bracket. With the new format and a chance for an all MLS team vs. Liga MX team, this is a huge opportunity and challenge for each MLS team.
2018 SCCL Is A Huge Opportunity For All Five MLS Teams
Five MLS teams will be competing in the 16 team knockout stage: Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders FC, and Toronto FC.
The latter two are looking to elevate themselves to a new echelon in MLS history. The other three are going through some transition in 2018 and are looking for some early indication that they’re trending up. With that, let’s look at what each team is fighting for beyond just being the first team in league history to win SCCL.
Becoming a Super Club:
Seattle and Toronto have been a tear the last few seasons. Both big crowds, big budgets, and big name players. The Sounders won MLS Cup last year and the Supporter’s Shield back in 2014. They’ve been a contender (if not favorite) in the Western Conference for years. In just nine seasons as an MLS team, they’ve been to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final five times, winning it four times. Had they beaten Toronto in the MLS Cup rematch earlier this month, fans and pundits would have started discussing “is this team a dynasty?”
On the other side, Toronto just completed the first domestic treble in MLS history. They had hands down the best regular season in MLS history. They’re back-to-back Amway Canadian Championship winners. Earlier this month, they finally won their first MLS Cup.
Both clubs and their ownership groups have aspirations of being the next Super Club in MLS. Making a third straight MLS Cup and winning it would certainly help the dynasty argument. Both are in position to win domestic hardware in the next two years. But no team has won SCCL before.
No matter the team or how they do it, the first MLS team to do it will go down in history. Seattle and Toronto could play as many as three Liga MX teams to win this tournament. The dynasties at Real Madrid are called Los Galácticos because they were expensive super teams with world stars who won everything, in Spain and Europe.
Super Clubs can’t dominate domestically and flop in regional competitions. If these two want to achieve or surpass D.C. United of United of the 1990’s or LA Galaxy of the early 2010’s, they need to win this tournament.
Proving the Process:
The other three teams are coming into this tournament with tempered expectations. Colorado have a new head coach and are changing their tactics. Dallas could be having a fire sale this off-season followed by a full youth movement in 2018. New York Red Bulls could be parting ways with a captain (Sacha Kljestian) for the second year in a row. They’re also embracing the Homegrown movement in MLS.
Any of these three winning this thing would be a surprise and require at least two big upsets of Mexican clubs. Even if these clubs don’t make if far, just one upset of a Liga MX team could be a moral boost to the club and supporters.
If Colorado can rebuild in an off-season and give TFC a run for their money with the same 5-3-2 formation? That will show the rebuild is heading in the right direction. If Dallas or New York win the first round then upset a Mexican side to get the semifinals? That must mean the kids showed up and balled out in Mexico. That would have them riding high going into the start of the season.
If any of these three win the whole thing, they could probably mail in the entire MLS season and the supporters will still be happy.
The preseason will be critical for all five of these teams. One of the biggest advantages Mexican teams have in this tournament is being in season domestically by the time this tournament starts. The 2018 SCCL will start two weeks before the start of the 2018 MLS season. All five MLS teams will be in preseason form.
The quarterfinals (which could be four MLS vs. LMX match ups) will start the week after the MLS season kicks off. They need to get the preseason right so they’re sharp come mid-March. If they are, they’ll have a shot against fit Liga MX opponents. If not, history could repeat itself.