With one round of matches left to play in the CONCACAF Champions League Group Stages, four teams have already punched their tickets into the Quarterfinal Round. Would it surprise you to discover that three of these four teams are MLS sides? Of course not, because not only are you attractive but you're also really smart. DC United, LA Galaxy, your very own Seattle Sounders, and Liga MX squad Queretaro are already guaranteed advancement. That means the other four groups are still yet to be determined.
When tasked to figure out the possible seeding for the CCL quarterfinals, the fact that half the entrants are still up in the air makes the task a slightly daunting one. Did that dissuade me? Well, yeah, a little bit, but I powered through on your behalf. It's a little muddled at times due to two teams possibly coming down to some rarely used tie-breaker scenarios.
Bear with me while I just lay out the facts for you. There are eight groups, one winner advances per group, but instead of having a blind draw to determine the matchups for the quarterfinals, the advancing teams are seeded based on their performances. The team that collects the most points in their group gets the top seed, and in doing so they will face the group winner who collected the fewest amount of points. One might determine this slightly unfair. What if the team who had the fewest points also had the toughest group, while the team who had the most points had the easiest group? Well, since everything involving which team was in which group was randomly determined to begin with, this seeding method is still just a continuation of the inherent randomness.
There are tie-breakers. Normally I wouldn't get into it, but since Seattle secured advancement based on tie-breakers, and it looks like there's potential for one or more winners to advance through the same, I'll lay them out here for you to parse through.
Makes sense, right? Sounders advanced over the Vancouver Whitecaps because (assuming Vancouver beats Olimpia and also ends on 7 points), Seattle picked up 4 points on Vancouver while they only picked up 1 against Seattle. Pretty straight forward. It gets more complicated.
Allow me to list out the groups and the winners already determined or yet-to-be determined.
|W Connection FC||4||3||1||3||0||-8|
In the first matchup between Santos Laguna and Saprissa, the home Costa Rican side defeated the Mexican side 2-1. That would mean that in order for Saprissa to win the group and advance, they would only need to draw or win on the road against Santos Laguna. A draw would give them 7 points total with a Goal Differential (GD) of 4. A win would bring them to 9 points and a GD greater than 4. Santos Laguna simply needs to win.
Why would Saprissa advance if the game were a draw? Because tie-breaker letter i up there, they'd have 4 points earned in the two matchups compared to Santos Laguna's 1 point.
Group B is similar to Group A in that the final match determines the winner. This time Tigres will host CS Herediano needing only a draw or a victory to advance. Having drawn in their earlier matchup, CS Herediano must win in order to advance, having won the group thanks to tie-breaker i. Were that to happen, CS Herediano would have 7 points and a GD of at least 2. Tigres could advance with 8 points or 10. If it's at 8 points then they'd have a GD of +2, while if they had 10 points it'd be a GD of greater than 2.
Getting the hang of it?
Mexican side Queretaro has advanced from Group C. Verdes FC could equal them on points, but they would lose the first tie-breaker. Queretaro has finished the group with 7 points and a GD of 9.
With a game to play, LA Galaxy have locked up Group D. They can do no worse than 7 points, which is more than the other two teams can get. They will finish with 7 points (GD 8 or less), 8 points (GD of 9), or 10 points (GD 10 or greater).
Group E is an interesting one. You'd think America, sitting undefeated in group play, are a guaranteed lock to advance, but you'd be wrong. In their first matchup, America hosted Montagua and beat them 4-0. It was a thorough shellacking. So, in order for Montagua to advance they'd need to beat America by at least 5 goals. Not wholly insurmountable. Anything less than a 5 goal victory would have America advance on tie-breaker ii, except a 4-0 victory. An outcome of that scoreline would require we go all the way down to tie-breaker vi, where America has scored 3 away goals in group play to Montagua's 2 away goals.
So pretty much America has advanced. They can advance with either 9 points (GD of six or fewer), 10 points (GD of 7), or 12 points (GD of 8 or greater). If Montagua advance they'd have 9 points with at least a GD of 4.
The Group of Death! More like the Group of Advancement if you're the Seattle Sounders. We've gone over the why earlier, so no need to rehash, just celebrate instead!
The nitty-gritty: Seattle advances with 7 points and GD of 3.
|Real Salt Lake||3||7||2||0||1||2|
Another group that comes down to the last game, Group G will have Real Salt Lake and Municipal playing in good ol' Sandy, Utah, with RSL needing a win or a draw to advance, and Municipal needing a win. Any victory by Municipal would see the Guatemalan side advance, as they'd win thanks to tie-breaker v.
RSL could win with 8 points (GD of 2) or 10 points (GD of at least 3). Municipal could win with 7 points (GD of at least 1).
|Montego Bay United FC||3||1||0||2||1||-6|
Finally, we end with an easy one. DC United win Group H outright with 10 points and GD of 6. Thanks, DC!
What this means
Three of the advanced teams have played their full allotment of games while LA Galaxy have one more game to play despite locking up a spot in the Quarterfinals.
|LA Galaxy||7||less than 9|
|LA Galaxy||10||greater than 9|
Among those four teams, unless LA were to lose by more than 6 goals, Seattle would be the lowest seed. Below I'll list the remaining groups and possibilities for advancement.
|Saprissa||9||greater than 4|
|Santos Laguna||9||greater than 4|
|Tigres||10||greater than 2|
|Herediano||7||greater than 1|
|America||9||5 or 6|
|America||12||greater than 7|
|Montagua||9||greater than 4|
|Real Salt Lake||8||2|
|Real Salt Lake||10||greater than 2|
|Municipal||7||greater than 0|
That's a lot of information to disseminate. Of those teams, only Municipal and Herediano have a chance at being a lower seed than Seattle. If both Tigres and RSL win or draw their final group stage matches, Seattle will be the 8th seed. If one wins and the other loses, Seattle will be the 7th seed. If both teams lose, Seattle will be the 6th seed.
So then who will we play? Unless we get lopsided scores, we're probably going to face one of DC United or America. If the earlier scenario where both Tigres and RSL lost and Seattle were the 6th seed, we'd probably avoid both DC and Club America and would instead face the likes of Santos Laguna/Saprissa. If LA Galaxy wins their final match they would be either the number 1 or 2 seed, depending on what Club America does, which would potentially knock DC United down into the 3rd seed.
Regardless, unless fate conspires to have the Sounders face Saprissa, we're looking at a Quarterfinals matchup between a tough Mexican Squad or a familiar MLS foe.