Just because the Seattle Sounders won MLS Cup doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be playing in CONCACAF Champions League next year. During a segment on JoeTV’s “Q it up sports”, GM Garth Lagerwey suggested the Sounders may have to wait more than a year before returning to the continental tournament.
“We’re not sure yet, but we may not play Champions League games until 2018 — believe it or not — there may be some format changes,” Lagerwey said.
What, exactly, those format changes could is still the thing of rumors. One persistent rumor has been that CONCACAF is looking to get Champions League into a calendar year, instead of being spread across two the way it is now.
One report suggested CONCACAF could effectively return to the format similar to the one it used from the 2008-09 tournament through the 2011-12 where the group stage was made up of four four-team groups. The group stage would start in spring and the quarterfinals would begin in late summer/early fall. How teams would qualify is, of course, unclear but Lagerwey’s comments at least suggest the Sounders would have a spot. More recent Spanish-language reports have given further credence to this possibility.
This format would have a few benefits, most notably increasing the number of games played between MLS and Liga MX teams. But it would also put the knockout stage at a point in the year when all of the leagues are in midseason form.
The unavoidable cost of this move would be taking a year off from the competition. There will also have to be compromises in how teams qualify for this first calendar-year tournament as well, possibly forcing some MLS teams into a preliminary round of qualifying.
Figuring out what to do with teams presumably qualified over a two-year period will be tricky and probably make it impossible to fully satisfy everyone, but it would probably be a smart move for the tournament in the long run.