A League Alone

Won't someone please think of the USL?

If you missed last night’s Concacaf League final between Costa Rican rivals LD Alajuelense and Deportivo Saprissa, you missed out on seeing one of the best games in the region played this year.

As far as international finals go, it was as open and fun as you could want. Ultimately, Alajuelense prevailed 3-2 in a spicy and skilled affair that managed to pop even without the rocking stadium that you most certainly would have had if COVID-19 wasn’t still hanging about, making us all miserable.

At this point you might be thinking one of two things. Either you’re going “What the hell is a Concacaf League,” or you’re saying “Of course the Concacaf League was open because who cares who wins it?”

I’ll get to the latter in a second, but a quick explainer on the former: The Concacaf League is Concacaf’s secondary club competition, designed for smaller leagues in the region that either do not get a direct spot to the Concacaf Champions League, or get a limited amount of spots. The tournament acts as both a qualifier to the CCL, as well as a championship of its own.

Concacaf’s Europa League would be a flippant way to put it, but you kind of get the idea when it is presented that way (even if it is a somewhat imperfect analogy).

As for why you should care, well this is where you get into questions about why we care about any of this stuff, really. You should care because it’s a soccer tournament and you’re a soccer fan. If you only care about the “biggest” competitions in Concacaf, note the “s I just added to that word because IT’S CONCACAF. What’s big, anyway?

(But, if you are that miserable here you go: you should care because it’s the only way a CanPL team can currently qualify to the CCL. That’s all I got. Barcelona plays on Sunday).  

Ultimately, the better question is what’s the value of the competition. And, the answer to that is it offers more opportunity for more players and teams to play internationally. That, in turn, should improve the overall play in the confederation. That helps everyone — the whole rising tide raises all boats thing.

Yeah, there’s a lot of teams that are no-hopers in this, but there’s a lot of no-hopers in the Champions League, so, really who cares?

In fact, I would argue that there should be more teams given a chance to compete in the Concacaf League. Currently, there’s an awkward number of 22 teams in the competition. They could add as many as 10 more without adding a significant amount of time to the tournament.

That would give more Caribbean and Central American teams a chance as well as, likely, a second CanPL team.

And, if I had my way, I’d also add a team from the USL.

Here’s where I probably lose a few people, but let me ask you this?

Why not? Yes, it’s technically a Division 2 league, but without pro/rel (No, I’m not opening up that can of worms on here, other than to state the fact that it does not exist) there is literally no pathway for teams in that league – and its hundreds of players – to compete internationally.

I just can’t come up with an argument that makes sense to me to restrict the league from taking part. It’s not like Concacaf hasn’t looked the other way before to get teams in.

For instance, Puerto Rico Islanders essentially were gifted a spot in the CCL for several years (and made noise in it) and, well, there was a stretch there when Canada had a three team cup competition with only one team in a top flight.

If you were OK with that, then having the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Concacaf League qualifying round isn’t going to kill you.

Sure, it will likely mean the United States has five teams in Concacaf play each year and that’s more than Mexico’s four. To that, I say…WHO CARES? The country is massive. There’s a lot of teams and people there. I’m fine with the U.S. having another.

It’s still too few, based on population.  

I mean, the LigaMX teams will still likely win the CCL, even if they gave the US ten more teams. So, relax and don’t be so rigid in your thinking.

Bottom line: Adding the USL to the Concacaf League would make what is already a fun and delightfully niche competition even better.

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