By Patrick Doherty, writing from Boston.
Editor’s note: Patrick, a recent graduate of Tufts University where he wore the #8 for the “Jumbos”, is joining the AFR team as our expert on Major League Soccer and US Soccer. He’s a proud Bostonian, as big a US supporter as they come, a New England Revolution fan since the beginning, and also a supporter of PSG, Spurs, Ireland, and his hero Clint Dempsey. Give Patrick a warm welcome!
One more game. That’s all that stands in the way of the first American in the Champions League final.
Only this final won’t be played at Wembley.
It surely does not have the same following as its cross-Atlantic counterpart. In fact, unless your team is in it, you may not even know it exists. Yet while only a handful of diehards may have been watching the tourney since the prelims kicked off last July, the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) may be the key to the future of soccer in North America. With their second-leg match against perennial Costa Rican champion Deportivo Saprissa on April 5, Real Salt Lake will be one step closer to earning the title of best club in the confederation.
But first off, let’s be honest. When it comes to club football, CONCACAF is not UEFA, and its premier club competition continues to languish in obscurity as far as the mainstream football fan is concerned, despite a reorganization of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup three years ago.
Since this expansion of the tournament from an exclusively knockout format to a 24 team championship modeled after its European counterpart, not a single MLS team has made it past the quarterfinals. The League’s representatives have simply been abysmal, and I hate to be reminded that it was my New England Revolution who kicked off the League’s awful CCL record (a 6-1 aggregate defeat, including a 4-0 whipping at home, in the preliminary round of the 2008-09 season to Trinidadian minnows Joe Public FC, a side whose chairman just happens to be CONCACAF boss Jack Warner).