You may have seen the FanShot earlier today about the Strength of Schedule for the remainder of the MLS season. It likely made you feel pretty good. To save you time, if you don't remember, the Sounders had the second easiest set of remaining matches, by the measure there. Hooray for the regular season and small hopes.
I'm here now to tell you about the CCL a little bit. And even smaller hopes. We're only in the third year of the format change to a Champions League rather than just Cup Winners. Since the change MLS teams have struggled, and struggled mightily. Mexico has clearly dominated the new format, and all of their sides make the knock out rounds.
The good news is that another team will always make the knockout from every Group. More good news? MLS has five teams in the tournament this time around. More good news? Nope. That's it for Sounders fans, ok, not really. There is a single bright spot left and we'll get to it in a moment.
Let's lay some ground work.
Are you familiar with the UEFA Coefficients? No, then read up. If yes, you can move to the next paragraph.
Wouldn't it be great if someone out there did that for CONCACAF even though they don't do it themselves? It would, and someone does. Here are the current national and team coefficients for our region.
From that though we can get a rough estimate of the strength of schedule for the Preliminary Round and rougher still for the Group Stage.
|Group||Team||Coefficient||% above avg||SOS|
|A||Real Salt Lake||0.000||0%||5.046|
|p||San Juan Jabloteh||9.750||50%||4.977|
|p||Los Angeles Galaxy||15.469||79%||5.777|
|p||Puerto Rico Islanders||28.000||142%||5.141|
The little 'p' represents the Prelims. Team p1 faces p2, p3 faces p4. Let's remember that in the Prelims it is a two leg aggregate goals scored situation. In essence the match is 180 minutes. Generally the "better team" wins the Prelims. For the purposes of this presentation I worked under the assumption that the team with the larger coefficient won the Prelims. For teams in the Prelims I counted both their Prelim opponent and their likely Group Stage opponents. The higher the SOS the more difficult the set of matches. This is quick and dirty. There is probably a better system. When I find it I will switch to it.
Here's one of those bright spots for the Sounders. They are facing one of the weaker teams in the Prelims. Let's get back to the grey clouds, not just because I'm from the Greater Puget Sound, but because I like reality. Seattle is in the only Group with 3 teams that are above average in this tournament.
Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake have it much better. One of them stands a decent chance of making it out of the Group Stage, as their Group is pretty weak. The Los Angeles Galaxy despite being the rockstar club of MLS probably won't make it. They have the toughest route of any team, not just MLS teams, any team tied with FAS. In fact Group D is down right tough, but probably not the Group of Death, as the winner of D is almost certainly going to be Toluca. There's really just a battle for second there.
Group C on the other hand is probably the Group of Death. Any of three teams could win it - Monterrey, Saprissa and Marathon. Yes, that's the weakest of the Mexican teams (they are in bold), but it is the strongest team from Costa Rica and from Honduras. In fact Seattle has the 4th toughest strength of schedule (albeit by my rough method), one though could say that due to the competitive nature of the Group, Seattle may just have a chance at winning it as there are likely going to be many more draws in this Group.
Before we get too worried about the Group Stage though we have a two leg series against Metapan, a team so good it won its national league while finishing fourth. They have Playoffs in El Salvador, a nation whose primary sport is soccer.
Max Bretos, formerly of FSC now of ESPN, said that he liked the teams from MLS in this CCL and figures this is the year of a run. I don't know that I'd go that far, but I definitely like the Crew to make it out of the Group Stage, I'll bet that one of RSL and TFC do, and if LA beats the Islanders they probably will. But I don't think that two or three representitives in the Group Stage is a run.
Montreal Puerto Rico made the Semis, and until MLS does that in the current version of the CCL I will not be close to satisfied.