Club World Cup On The Horizon For MLS

No MLS club has advanced from the CCL to the Club World Cup. Here’s why one could soon.
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, April 29, 2015

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

The time has now come that the CONCACAF Champions League is setting and on the horizon is the Club World Cup. Regardless of the 61,004 people – or, at least, tickets sold – who saw the matchup between Club America and Montreal Impact, this is a vital and important time for Major League Soccer clubs.

Although the Impact reached this far into CCL through first qualifying for the competition via the Canadian Championship, having a Major League Soccer team this far – in the CCL Final – is huge. It’s certainly not the first rodeo, however, for an MLS club to be in the Final since the last time for that was in 2011 with Real Salt Lake falling 3-2 to Monterrey of Liga MX. More recently, two years ago, both the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders lost in the semifinals of the tournament.

The far reaches of the Club World Cup don’t seem too far away now that MLS clubs are starting to gain tiny footholds in the CCL. Obviously, getting through the beginning stages and the earlier games of the CCL matches is the most important, though, to get through to the Club World Cup, which no MLS team has done ever.

So how has that happened?

One of the main points of contention is that MLS coaches – many of them, at least – don’t take the CCL seriously. It’s no doubt on a different plane than the US Open Cup, but even during the US Open Cup, there are coaches who will take a ‘less than full strength’ squad to early round games, get knocked out, and get back to the regular season MLS grind. Maybe it’s because of the following reason why teams may not take the CCL as important as they should, or maybe it’s another reason like too much travel, but there is a shift in viewpoint of the CCL.

Another reason why CCL isn’t weighted as much as, possibly the MLS regular season or even the US Open Cup, is that MLS team strength and quality isn’t as high up on the scales as other CONCACAF league teams like Liga MX or teams from Costa Rica like Alajuelense and Saprissa. There also seems to be a bit more of a drastic shift in this aspect, however, even more so than getting the importance of the CCL into the mindset of MLS teams. This shift is greater – or rather, happening at a faster rate – because of the amount of US men’s national team players who are coming back or have started to play in MLS in recent years. Although there may be one or two USMNT players on each MLS team, that leadership and next level playing on the pitch from US internationals helps with organization, a cool head, and experience with playing in other – more, shall we say, hostile – environments.

So after all is said and done, will the Montreal Impact advance into the Club World Cup as the CONCACAF – and MLS – representative? Maybe. Maybe not. But if one thing is learned and gleaned from their run in the CCL, it’s that Major League Soccer clubs can’t, or at least should not, be looked down upon from the Central American teams. Although no Major League Soccer team has advanced to the Club World Cup, there are many bright days ahead for the league in worldwide competitions such as this.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.