MLS: CONCACAF Champions League suspension at just wrong time

MLS, LAFC, Carlos Vela (Photo by VICTOR CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images)
MLS, LAFC, Carlos Vela (Photo by VICTOR CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images) /

The future of the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League is very much in doubt. After Los Angeles FC’s superb win over Club Leon, it would come at just the wrong time for MLS.

As people and organisations the world over still come to terms with the coronavirus pandemic and its effects, for many sports, completing their current seasons has been impossible. They have already called time on their respective campaigns in the hope that they do not cause too much disruption to future campaigns. Others, however, are more determined to get games back on, any way possible.

Major League Soccer falls in the latter category. Only two games in the 2020 season, it had both time and desperation on its side. Don Garber was uber keen to ensure that some form of season was played. The league’s revenue, and thereby the longevity and health of the league more generally, depended on it.

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Other leagues have taken the same approach. The Bundesliga resumed in mid-May. The Premier League will resume in a little over a week. The NBA, NFL, and other sports are all scrambling for ideas as to how they can complete their respective seasons — or even simply start the new ones.

Plenty of others, however, have taken the opposite approach. Ligue 1, the Eredivisie, the Belgian league, the lower leagues in England have all been cancelled, with the standings either determined on a points-per-game basis or the season declared null and void.

This is also very possible for the CONCACAF Champions League, which is an inherently more difficult tournament to restart given the added travel involved. You have teams crossing borders, playing matches in different states and countries. It is not easy to structure this in a safe manner in the current climate. Liga MX, the leading league in the competition alongside MLS, has already called its Clausura finished.

If the CCL was to be called off, of which there has not been a definitive answer either way and discussions will still be at a very early stage, it would be disastrous for MLS, and for Los Angeles FC in particular.

The league has attempted to gain traction and value with its performance in the CCL for many years. Since it was restructured, however, no MLS team has ever won the competition. But this year, LAFC looked ready to rival the very best. They had already dispatched Club Leon in a superb 3-0 victory in the second leg after losing the first leg 2-0. They face a tough draw, first playing Cruz Azul before then likely facing Club America just to reach the final, but they have already proven they can compete and beat the best Liga MX has to offer.

Since Toronto FC in 2018, LAFC represent the best chance for an MLS team to finally win the CCL. And they might even stake a claim to being superior to that TFC team given the breadth and depth of their offensive firepower.

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This might just have been the year that an MLS team could have gotten over the CCL hump. Now, with the entire competition under threat as leagues around the world bow to the pressures of COVID-19, that is very much in doubt.