Category Archives: Soccer History

CONCACAF Champions League – Your Local Champions League on TODAY!

While I added story lines for the UEFA Champions League yesterday (and their games continue today), I need to plug our MLS teams’ participation in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) that is also being played today.  Similar in shape and concept to UEFA Champions League (and its former Europe Cup), CONCACAF has been crowning club champions in its region since 1962.  The current form, CCL, was inaugurated in the 2008-2009 season.

The CCL features the top 24 club teams from CONCACAF’s three sub-regions: North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.  The competition is played in two stages — the Group Stage (8 groups of 3) and the Championship Round (featuring quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals).  The 8 winners of the groups advance to the quarterfinals.  They are seeded 1-8 based on points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie).  One plays 8 in the quarters, 4v5, 3v6, etc.  Semifinal pairings are determined with the winner of 1v8 playing the winner of 4v5 and 3v6 winner playing 2v7.

Teams are assigned to the Groups by draw.  Teams from the U.S. and Mexico cannot be drawn in the same group as well as two teams from the same country (unless one of them is a wild card entry).  I presume the former rule is to ensure competitive balance for the later rounds since only one team from each group advances.

Atlante won the inaugural title in 2009 beating fellow Mexican side Cruz Azul 2-0 on aggregate.  A year later, Pachuca defeated Cruz Azul for the crown on the away-goals rule (if aggregate goals are tied after home and away, the team that scored the most away goals is the winner).  Monterrey has captured the last two editions, overcoming Real Salt Lake (2011) and Santos (2012) 3-2 on aggregate both times. No MLS team has won the title to date.

The winner of the CCL qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup.  Barcelona is the reigning Cup holder.

There are 5 MLS teams currently participating in the CCL.  Toronto is in Group 1 and has played 2 games, winning one and losing another.  RSL is tied atop Group 2 with Herediano, 6 points each after two matches.  Our hometown Dynamo is tied atop Group 3 with Olimpia, each with 4 points.  The Sounders top Group 4 with 6 points after 2 matches and the Galaxy are atop Group 5 with 6 points after two.  Here are the complete standings (to date) and the tiebreaker rules courtesy of the Houston Dynamo.

Here is the website for the CCL.  It has the tables, schedules, highlights, etc.  What is great about the CCL is that you can stream it for free.  Click here to register for free streaming.  Just add an account.  Tonight, you can watch the Galaxy play the Puerto Rico Islanders (7:00 pm) and the Sounders playing the Honduran squad Marathan (9:00 pm).  Also, for Santos fans, they kickoff the same time as the Sounders against Aguila.  Tomorrow night, the Dynamo host FAS from El Salvador in a big game.  FAS has not registered a point so this is a game the Dynamo need to grab 3.   As we are nearing the end of Group stage, pay attention and root for all of our MLS teams to advance to the next round.

Olympic Soccer & the Home of the First True World Championship: Ode to Uruguay

Uruguayans World Champs (again)

I routinely follow soccer through sites like The Guardian, FoxSoccer, GiveMeFootball, as well as the Telegraph.  Most of the writers I follow are English.  I have found a general disinterest in the football tournament at the Games – a sort of apathy about the games that seems wholly out of context for the English writers.  Writers criticize the organization of the football, the quality of the football, officiating, etc.  I think it is interesting to know that soccer and the Olympics go way back…

Soccer was played as an Exhibition sport in the first Olympic games in 1896 in Athens.  While the standard bearers of the day, the English, did not participate in full (or at all), an unbalanced exhibition was at least a part of the Games.  That is more than you can say for many other sports.

Soccer continued in that role and, beginning in Paris in 1924, started attracted more competitive teams (just not the Brits – who, just as they turn their nose to it today, turned their nose to it (and any international or continental (Europe)) back then — at least they are consistent). To be fair, some British Amateurs did participate in the 1908 & 1912 games (winning) and participating in 1920.

The shock of the Paris 1924 tournament was an outfit from a tiny  country in South America – Uruguay.  While they were unheard of, they walked through the event winning 7-0 against Yugoslavia, 3-0 against the USA (their first international tournament), and beating France 5-1 to qualify for the Final against the Swiss (where 60,000 people attended).  They defeated the Swiss 3-0 to win the title.  Because the Germans, English, and the team that perceived itself the best in South America at the time (Argentina) did not play in 1924, the 1928 Games would prove the true test.

But, in the 1924 games, consider how the Uruguayans style of play was described:

“The principle quality of the victors was marvellous virtuosity in receiving the ball, controlling it and using it. They have such a complete technique that they also have the necessary leisure to note the position of the partners and team-mates. The do not stand still waiting for a pass. They are on the move, away from the markers, to make it easy for their team-mates…They have pushed towards the perfection the art of the feint and swerve and the dodge, but they also know how to play directly and quickly. They are not only ball jugglers. They created a beautiful football, elegant but at the same time varied, rapid, powerful, effective.

Quoted in The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer, by David Goldblatt (page 245).  He researched the material from a french writer, Gabriel Hanot, an editor of L’Equipe (a french sporting publication at the time).

The interesting thing about that quote is that it seems to describe the Spanish team today.  On to 1928…

Uruguay repeated their success in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.  This time, more teams participated, including Argentina.  Goldblatt refers to the 1928 Olympic Games triumph, where they defeated Argentina in the final, the first true World Championship.  (page 247).  Over 60,000 people watched the final.  Olympic organizers understood that football was the main attraction of the games.  FIFA figured it out too.

Because of the popularity of the Games, FIFA met and decided on a World Cup model, to be played every four years.  The first World Cup was played in 1930 and Uruguay was chosen as the host country, where they won it as well (again over Argentina and this time in front of 80,000).  The World Cup has continued ever four years, with some suspensions because of World War II, until the present.  What happened to Uruguay?  Well, when the market collapsed in 1930, they (along with many other South American countries) traded in their democratic-socialist style regime for military dictatorship.  They lost everything.  And, for soccer, this country of 3 million did not make another appearance until the 1950 World Cup, hosted by Brazil.  The Brazilians, by then, were the heavy favorites.  Uruguay made it to the final and upset Brazil 2-1 — a heartbreaking loss for Brazil.

So…when you consider Olympic football today, set aside the marketing power of EPL and Serie A and La Liga and enjoy the show.  Know that what you are watching has a deeper history and, in fact, an original history of hosting international soccer tournaments.  If you are an English fan, enjoy rooting for Aaron Ramsey, Giggs, and other players not usually on the Three Lions. That is another story — Great Britain competed in the games, not just England!