(Editorial note: In league comparisons, clubs from MLS and USSF D2 are kept with league instead of federations of Canada and Puerto Rico)
As the CONCACAF Champions League returns to action this week with the Quarterfinals, Major League Soccer heads toward its greatest opportunity to win the confederation’s championship without serving as the event host. Improved performance away from home this year is arguably the key component to the league’s success.
Not surprisingly, the Mexican contingent ranks atop nearly every statistical category when it comes to the current format of the CCL. The dominance of the league’s clubs has seen it rank first in overall performance (point percentage) each year, including the current 2011-12 tournament. MLS, though is gradually improving and attempting to establish a firm hold as the number two nation going from near the bottom (ninth) in the 2008-09 season to fourth the following year and third a year ago.
The league has already compiled the second best road record over the course of the four years of the expanded tournament format.
Currently ranking second in overall performance for the ongoing tournament, MLS is in position to become only the second league to supplant the Mexican contingent from the top spot in road performance (of leagues with 5+ road games played) since the Puerto Rico Islanders and Montreal Impact made their remarkable runs in the inaugural edition of the new format representing the USL First Division in 2008-09.
The five MLS clubs compiled a .542 point percentage over the course of last summer while the Mexicans were a combined .472. If the numbers hold over the course of the championship stages, it could be just the second time in the four years of the event that a league surpasses the .500 record on the road with the Mexican sides finishing with a mark of .608 in 2009-10.
The Mexican clubs still hold a commanding advantage, however, in overall performance at .679 courtesy of ranking, as well as a tournament-best home percentage of .857. MLS trails by quite a bit with a mark of .573 overall and a below average performance at home of .604 that saw the league dip from its best home performance a year ago (third at .733) back to fifth.
* Leagues with minimal appearances excluded from table (data included)
New Expanded Group Format for 2012-13
The good news for Major League Soccer and the Mexican clubs – not that they need it – is that the announced new format for the CCL starting this summer will likely make the two leagues the confederation’s two dominant forces. With the Preliminary Round being eliminated and all 24 clubs entering into an opening round of eight three-team groups, the Mexican and American entries (most likely MLS) will be seeded into different groups. Without facing one another, the clubs from the two leagues will undoubtedly be the favorites in each group.
Mexico holds an impressive history against most of its opposition with a total point percentage to date over .700 versus Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama. Honduras, MLS and the USSF Second Division have proven to be the pests for the perennial powers, but the numbers are still well above .500 with the trends showing an increase in the gap with all but MLS as they have dominated Honduras the past two years.
While MLS has not dominated its non-Mexican opposition, the league is clearly expanding the gap between itself and the second tier of competition from Central America. MLS has improved the past two years against nearly every league with the exception of a rare drop-off against Panama (from .750 to .556), holding a .500 or better mark against Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for the current tournament.
The separation of Mexico and the American clubs is a present for MLS clubs, so long as they do not take the opposition for granted in favor of focusing on league play. Over the past four years Mexican clubs have accounted for nearly a third of MLS draws in CCL play (7 of 23) and almost half of their losses (20 of 43).
It will not be a walk in the park though if the MLS clubs draw teams from Costa Rica and Honduras, the two leagues other than Mexico than have traditionally been trouble for MLS. The two have accounted for a quarter of the league’s losses (11 of 43) in the event.
Mexico & MLS vs Other Leagues
With the three remaining MLS clubs on the same side of the bracket, changes to the current numbers for the league could be minimal. Toronto FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy square off over the next two Wednesdays (March 7 & 14) while the Seattle Sounders face 2008-09 semifinalist Santos Laguna the same nights as their peers.
The now three-time US Open Cup champions, in the midst of their second CCL campaign as the American tournament winners, have seen a dramatic improvement that is nearly double what they accomplished in their second year of play as an MLS club. A 2-1-5 record in 2010-11 has been put behind them with a 4-1-3 mark in the current tournament, going 3-0-1 on the road.
The Sounders became just the second team to win in Mexico, downing defending champion Monterrey, 1-0, a week after FC Dallas ended the winless status against Pumas. Toronto FC and the Galaxy have also both found success versus Mexican opposition. TFC is 1-2-1 over the last two years with a 1-1 draw in the current edition’s group phase against Pumas. Last year in group play they defeated Cruz Azul at home, 2-1, and played to a scoreless stalemate in Mexico. Los Angeles registered a 2-1 victory over Morelia in the group phase last summer.
Drawn into the other half of the bracket, Pumas or Monterrey will likely be the opponent awaiting the winner on the MLS side. They are joined by fellow Mexican side Morelia as well as El Salvador’s Metapan, who surprised many in becoming the lone club outside of Mexico and MLS to advance to the final eight.
Point Percentage: The calculation is determined from points that would be earned in a contest (3 for win, 1 for draw) out of points possible.