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CONCACAF Champions League is important! It is … right?

Jul 31, 2012, 11:23 AM EDT

CONCACAF Champs Lg logo

Just in case everyone isn’t clear, CONCACAF Champions League is important to Major League Soccer. About as important as properly inflated balls or sufficient supplies of beer in the stadium concession areas from the sound of it.

What MLS commissioner Don Garber told Sporting News in a recent interview:  “We’ve got to try to win that tournament. We’ve got to try to get to the world club championship. That’s got to be a priority.”

And what Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said last Friday, immediately after a Western Conference-shaping win over Vancouver: “I’m ready. I’m ready right now to go home and scout Herediano and do everything we can so that we are very properly prepared. This is a big, big deal to our club, a big, big deal to our fans, and a huge deal to everybody in the locker room.”

So there. That’s one side. Me?

Success in any competition will help at a micro level. That is, it stirs up buzz and adds momentum for individual clubs.

But I must admit that I’m always a little skeptical about how much success in CONCACAF Champions League can assist over larger sweeps, how it would boost MLS in the league’s most pressing areas for growth.

(MORE: Champions League preview from Richard Farley)

Would an MLS club finally getting to the FIFA Club World Cup help boost league pride and prestige? Sure. Would a few more players from lands beyond put MLS on their personal “consider” list. Yeah, a few.

But would it significantly enhance TV ratings (and, subsequently, revenue during the next round of network talks)? Nah.

Would it help D.C. United get a stadium? Highly unlikely. Would it encourage New England ownership to expedite its stadium initiative, or further encourage Chivas USA to develop a brand identity that works? I think we know better.

Would it boost attendance in markets that continue to tread water, like Chivas USA, Columbus, Dallas, Colorado and New England? Only if one of them won it.

Would it help MLS gin up awareness in the dozens of U.S. mid-sized markets where so precious little exists? (Go ask people in Austin or Albuquerque or Atlanta about MLS.)

Would it assist in efforts to improve the refereeing standard here and in Canada, which would boost the overall quality (and appeal) of matches? Nope.

Would it further improve the youth development mechanisms or add money required to further enhance the reserve team elements? Doubtful.

But that’s just me. Plenty of people feel differently. Obviously.

  1. berlintexas - Jul 31, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Spot on. What makes the UEFA Champions League so important to the teams competing in it is 1) the money, 2) the prestige, and 3) $$$ (or euros or whatever). Until it raises the needle in advert dollars the tournament will remain little more than a glorified series of friendlies.

  2. tylerbetts - Jul 31, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Is CCL important? Yes.

    Is it as important as it could be? No. Do clubs, and the league, need to do more to make it more important? Yes.

    I care about CCL. I want my club to qualify for it, I want most MLS clubs to do well in it, and I want a US-based MLS clube to win it.

    But, I’m not the fan MLS needs to be marketing to. I’ve bought tickets to six games for a team I HATE this year, and I’m likely to buy more before the season is out. I watch CCL games, I watch USOC games, and I truly take pride in the success of MLS as a whole. To put it simple, MLS has my sports dollar, and they’d have to really screw up to lose it.

    And so, fans like me – we’re not the ones you need to market CCL to. In the larger markets, you need to target the fans of the other metro area teams. The Dynamo need to be courting the fans of the Texans and the Rockets for their dollars around CCL. Make it a cool event and market it as such. Find a way to get a team rep into every local sports broadcast to talk about how important the group stage is, and how they need to represent HOUSTON as a sport community to make history. Make your CCL home games the “it” event of late summer. Sell your brand as the only brand in the community that is truly participating on a global stage to represent HOUSTON (and do the same thing with Salt Lake, Seattle, and LA).

    Then, knock down the ticket prices for the CCL group stage games. You don’t have the big draw of a Mexican team, so you’re not going to have chance at a sellout with inflated prices. But make it not only the event, make it the event you can take your entire family to. Get the young kids hooked on how cool it is to support the local team that takes an challengers from a host of nations.

    And make it so the community is invested in your success. If you win, the entire town celebrates with you, and they create the viral marketing you need for the knockout stages. If you lose, you can set up for a revenge factor the next time around, and marketing your regular season games as opportunities to be one of the few teams to qualify for this event next year.

    You have to exploit the fact that sports fans typically love two things: winning and their home town team. And they love it even more when those two things come together.

    But you aren’t going to make CCL bigger and more important by markting to guys like me. You’re going to make it bigger by making it about the sporting community as a whole, and hoping to convert some of them into guys (and gals) like me.

    (Though, you can throw a bone to some of the guys like me by pointing out that CCL qualification is about as close as we will come to Pro/Rel – promoton to CCL is something we could celebrate. Marketing it as such might get you some more of the “hardcore” fans.)

    • bryaneverson - Jul 31, 2012 at 4:40 PM

      Tyler is right, and I feel much the way he does. I’m a displaced Kansas City resident living in Detroit, but I know other supporters of the sport here that want an MLS team to win. And obviously I want SKC to go represent us, although I can’t speak for the rest of what I believe is a passionate fan base.

      If it’s not about money, it’s about marketing yourself as a winner, and pride.

  3. joeyt360 - Jul 31, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    I think what’s being captured between the column and the comments is that a CCL victory is bigger for the club than it is for the league. I don’t see any significant benefit to most MLS clubs that some other club won the trophy. But depending on what market you’re talking about (I don’t think NY would care much, but judging from past attendances and media coverage, SLC or Houston does) it could establish something just a wee bit closer to that much-sought-after holy grail of an MLS club–‘major league credibility’ in their town.

    • Steve Davis - Aug 1, 2012 at 10:04 AM

      “I think what’s being captured between the column and the comments is that a CCL victory is bigger for the club than it is for the league” ….

      Exactly! (I think I did say that, by the way. Maybe I didn’t put a fine enough point on it, but that was the point to the entire post. That it wasn’t going to move the needle on the big matter. At the micro level, the individual club level that is, yes, it can be generate some reasonable momentum.)

  4. footballer4ever - Jul 31, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    It will take a pioneer MLS team to win CCL and to reap the benefits for others to realize that and to want to replicate such feat. RSL was so close in winning CCL vs Monterrey, but failed miserably at home. Until a MLS wins CCL vs a Mexican club final, it will continue to be wrongly regarded as meaningless by most media and fans.

  5. pensfan603 - Jul 31, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    Yes because the Puerto Rican Isnlanders are in it

    imean its fun to watch and see which team comes out of=n top and it really does get heated some teams take pride in this as they should. But does it reallly matter knwo talks between Concacaf and conmebol coming together to create one large tournment have been happening so it basicly means nothing.

  6. pftuser - Aug 2, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    Yes it is. There are many ways to “grade” a league. It could be based on salary caps, talent, the number of fans, tv contract value, merchandising/brand value, franchise value, and probably many more. What better way to prove your league is moving in the right direction? Can the MLS compete with the Mexican Premier League and others on the field? If “we” can compete, or even show that we are getting closer, then we affirm we are at least moving in the right direction.

  7. footballer4ever - Aug 3, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Mexican Premier League? Now that’s funny. You must mean the “new” Liga MX. In some ways, MLS is already better than liga MX in just 17 years of existence. In other ways, we are still behind but improving along the way. Not to show disrespect, but i would not use the Mexican league as any standard. We , MLS, strive for bigger and better things.

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