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MLS teams to compete in 2015 Copa Libertadores?

Apr 23, 2013, 10:32 AM EDT

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Reports from Brazil this morning suggest that MLS teams could be invited to participate in the Copa Libertadores in 2015.

Lancenet are suggesting that meetings are scheduled by South America’s CONMEBOL during the upcoming Confederations Cup in June, to see if MLS teams can be admitted into the prestigious club tournament.

It has been mused in the past that MLS teams could join the tournament, but this seems like the biggest indication yet that it could get the go ahead. However reportedly the biggest stumbling block would be with finances.

That said, would MLS gain much from competing in Libertadores and leaving the CONCACAF Champions League? In terms of quality, the former is undoubtedly superior and would push MLS’ elite to new limits on the international stage. So in terms of player development, MLS would be taken much more seriously if it could compete with powerhouses from Argentina and Brazil on a regular basis. And the level in MLS could rise and some of the best talent in South America would look at a move to MLS more favorably, if teams were competing in the Libertadores.

But on the flip side, the travel times would be a hindrance. Some trips to Uruguay, southern Argentina, Chile and Peru would be arduous and would demand plenty of rescheduling in MLS fixtures. But as we saw with the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders run to the CONCACAF semifinals this season, MLS officials are willing to reschedule games to give the leagues teams a better chance of winning on the international stage. So it might work.

MLS joining the Copa Libertadores would be a huge step up from CCL, but would it be worth it financially? I suspect once those numbers are crunched, we will hear a lot more about the possibility of the Galaxy and Seattle taking on the likes of Boca Juniors and Corinthians. That sounds pretty awesome. Club Tijuana has proven Liga MX sides can cut it in Libertadores, so why can’t the best teams in MLS follow their lead?

  1. dfstell - Apr 23, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    Cool. All for it. I don’t think MLS clubs can win the tournament, but they’d be competitive and I’d love to see more of those South American clubs on English-language TV.

  2. nygiantstones - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    I don’t like it, I think this is a premature move for the sake of money. Of course Libertadores would like to get their foot into the US market, and all of the revenue that that entails. However, if we look at the fact that the MLS teams are just now barely making a dent in the CONCACAF competition, I don’t see how moving up this soon to South American competition is going to help MLS. Our teams will be beaten badly and spend less time in the competition, losing the extended (albeit limited) experience they currently receive in CONCACAF. I say give us another 5 years the way it is, allow MLS teams to develop more depth, and perhaps allow for MLS to adjust the overall schedule to create space for these tournaments. Traveling to South America to be smashed at this juncture seems extremely premature to me.

  3. jhalion - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    I say go for it. To be the best you’ve got to play the best!

  4. tylerbetts - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Is it actually a situation of Libertadores INSTEAD of CCL? Or would it be more like what Liga MX has where they have some teams qualify to CCL and some team qualify to Libertadores?

    I have to imagine it would be the latter. CCL would be a joke if it was some of the top teams from Mexico and none of the top teams from the US. Or, even more of a joke if it was CONCACAF clubs minus MLS and Liga MX.

    With that, I’d only be comfortable offering tentative support at this time. How would teams qualify? What would get priority between CCL and Libertadores? What does this do to US Open Cup and Canadian Championship? Pending the answers to those questions, this is either a really good thing or a really bad thing … with a great chance it actually falls somewhere in the middle.

    • zava55 - Apr 24, 2013 at 1:47 AM

      No, the author has not done his research right otherwise he/she would know that this would be in addition to CCL. CCL would still be priority. Even for Liga MX, the CCL is prioritized over the Copa Libertadores. Just like Mexico cannot qualify for the Confederations Cup if they won the Copa America, the same goes for Liga MX teams not qualifying for the FIFA Club World Cup if they won the Libertadores. For MLS teams and Liga MX teams, the path to the FIFA Club World Cup will be through the CCL.

      If you want to know what model MLS could use to decide which teams qualify you could just look at how Mexico does it. i’ll break it down. Mexico has two seasons a year: The Apertura which runs from the July to the beginning of December, and the Clausura which runs from January to May. The teams that Mexico send to CCL are the Apertura playoff finalists and the Clausura playoff finalists. The teams Mexico send to Copa Libertadores are only from the Apertura season and they are the Top Three teams of the table that are eligible. Now a team would be ineligible to participate in the Copa Libertadores if they are currently participating in the CCL. This means a team participating in the 2012-13 CCL cannot participate in the 2013 Copa Libertadores. If a team participating in the 2012-13 CCL places in the top three of the Apertura season, then the spot would go to the next best team.
      Teams can qualify and compete in both the Copa Libertadores and CCL in the same year. This is the case for both Club Tijuana and Toluca. Both Tijuana and Toluca were not involved in the 2012-13 CCL and therefore wer eligible for the 2013 Copa Libertadores. They both qualified for Copa Libertadores; both teams had 34 points at end of the season with Toluca placing 1st and Tijuana 2nd based on goal differential. Both teams also qualified for the 2013-14 CCL by becoming finalists in the playoffs; Tijuana became Champion and Toluca was Runner-Up.

      What does this mean for MLS? Well basically if MLS could have the same qualifying pattern they use for CCL for Copa Libertadores. The MLS season ends at around the same time Liga MX’s Apertura season does. Excluding the US Open Cup which is run by USSF and the Canadian Championship run by Canada’s soccer federation, MLS has three designated spots for the CCL: MLS Cup Champion, MLS Cup Runner Up, and Supporters Shield winner. If MLS was given the chance to participate in Copa Libertadores, they could use the same teams. Only difference would be that just like Liga MX’s teams that are playing the current edition of CCL would be ineligible for the Copa Libertadores, the current MLS CCL teams couldn’t play Copa Libertadores. In this case, the spot would go to the Supporters Shield Runner up or the next best eligible team based on the table.
      So for example, the LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes, and Sporting Kansas City are participating in the 2013-14 CCL. Now assuming they all make it through the group stage in 2013, they would be playing the Knockout Rounds in 2014 and in doing so it would conflict with them being eligible to participate in the 2014 Copa Libertadores. But let’s say for the 2013 MLS season the LA Galaxy become Supporters Shield Winners and Real Salt Lake are runners up to the supporters shield, Seattle Sounders win the MLS Cup and Red Bulls are the other finalists, then we would have a situation where LA, Seattle, NY qualify to the 2014-15 CCL. However, the teams that would qualify to the 2014 Copa Libertadores would be Seattle, NY, and RSL because even though LA are the Supporters Shield winners they would be ineligible due to their participation in the 2013-14 CCL.

  5. danielofthedale - Apr 23, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    I am not a big follower of Liga MX but I would curious to know about the quality of players and play in the league before they started playing in the Copa Lib. Did they already have a pipe line of that next to top level SA talent and then start playing down there or did the players after the Mexican teams got to compete in the Copa Lib? If its the later then I say go for it. Being able to bring players like a Suazo because they can play in the Copa Lib. would be great. However if Mexican league was already up to that level the I say wait.

  6. zava55 - Apr 24, 2013 at 2:02 AM

    Fans have not showed up and certain CCL games sometimes even against Liga MX competition. Not sure if the average MLS culture of fans is ready to support these games? I sometimes think the average “fan” care more about mid summer Euro friendlies; case in point no one has discussed inviting Corinthians, the World Champions, or other South American teams to the INTERNATIONAL Champions Tournament. Excluding games against Boca Juniors, Corinthians and other popular Brazilian and Argentinian teams, would there be enough support for games against Peruvian and Venezuelan teams. Would the non-Latino fan care and would they want to watch games on Fox Deportes (unless Fox Soccer or another English language channel picks up the games)? These are things to consider. I say if you make it happen fans will eventually follow, but MLS would need to start promoting the same way MLS in the last couple of years began to support the CCL. And then MLS teams need to be able to show up (this last part I doubt MLS is ready).

    MLS isn’t ready for Libertadores.For all the same issues that MLS has not won against Mexican teams in CCL- such as salary caps, lack of depth, a still developing youth program,- MLS isn’t ready for Copa Libertadores. Mexican teams don’t have an easy time against South American clubs so imagine how MLS would do. And then the burden will be too much for MLS teams that lack depth and need to focus and can’t focus on more than one competition. I could already see managers purposely using B teams to travel. MLS has barely gotten around to caring for the CCL. I say “barely” because it was only a couple years ago that teams like RSL began to take it serious to try to get on the map and before that you had Galaxy crash out against the Puerto rico Islanders and MLS teams cared more about the Herbalife World friendlies. It wasn’t that long ago that an MLS fan didn’t know what a “Saprissa” was.

    I do think if they are going to try to make a move towards Soith American competition, they should start with trying to see if they can play the Copa Sudamericana again. This is CONMEBOL’s second club competition or as some say it is CONMEBOL’s version of Europa League. But I really think MLS should take it one step at a time: focus on winning CCL… and then gradually move into South AMerican competition.

  7. Morque Smith - Apr 10, 2014 at 11:21 PM

    I’m all for it, MLS teams need competitions like these! I wish this would have happened years ago!

    I want to know, will there ever be a sit-down to change some of the corny MLS team names? Maybe that’s why people don’t really support MLS, nobody wants to root for a team with a high school name;

    “Arizona Rattlesnakes”

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