Barring some sort of labor issue, D.C. United will resume CONCACAF Champions League play Wednesday. Alajuelense crushed them 5-2 in leg one down in Costa Rica and now the mountain to climb is nearly impossible. Montreal Impact play Pachuca in a few hours. As often happens when MLS sides face Liga MX teams, the Impact did not win in Mexico, giving up a two-goal lead to draw 2-2.
The likelihood of the two remaining MLS teams advancing is minimal. It will probably be another year for the league without a victory over a Mexican team and without an appearance in the final. Last week there were think pieces from around the blogosphere insisting that MLS has not improved its performance in the CCL.
Rather than just "thinking about it" let's look at data. Using the a single-year coefficient system (similar to what UEFA does to judge federation quality) the numbers do not show a distinct downward trend for MLS in the CCL. They show that MLS had a poor group stage, but so did Liga MX — and Costa Rica had a really good one.
The data is from Arsenal Metro on Big Soccer and goes back to when CONCACAF switched from cup to league format. Canada and the USA were combined to reflect that they are tied together, even though the Canadian teams do not qualify through league play. The last non-MLS team to qualify was the Impact back in 2008-09 when they made the quarterfinals. Belize is not included in the chart as they've never earned a point in the league version of CONCACAF's club championship.
A Sounders FC fan will quickly notice that the cycles including the Seattle side were the strongest by MLS/NASL. The return to the CCL in the 2015-16 cycle will see the Sounders include the two home games as part of the season ticket package, rather than available as an additional purchase. This should mean more fans in attendance and a stronger home field advantage. The opponents are unknown. The only teams they can't be are those from Liga MX. Vancouver could be in the CCL Group. Twelve of the 24 qualifiers are already known, with the rest of the CCL field becoming clear this spring.
Tomorrow, if Montreal equals Seattle's miracle defeat over Tigres, MLS would be the second best league in CONCACAF. Within the region, CONCACAF's best teams over the years are still from Mexico, and in every cycle but this one the second best came from MLS.
Full data below;