CONCACAF Champions League 101

The Preliminary Round of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions league resumes tonight and tomorrow night, with second-leg road games for MLS sides Toronto (vs CD Motagua of Honduras), Seattle (vs Metapan, El Salvador), and Los Angeles (vs Puerto Rico Islanders).

Our recent post about LA’s lopsided loss to Puerto Rico in the first leg prompted a request from a Backpost reader for a primer on the CCL and—perhaps more importantly—some information on occasional CCL entrant Joe Public F.C. (yes, that’s an actual club; more on it later).

Let’s get to it:

The CONCACAF Champions League is the annual international club championship for teams from the North America, Central America and Caribbean region.

It began life in 1962 as the Champions Cup, and involved eight teams—four from the North America zone (two Mexico, two U.S./Canada), three from the Central America zone, and one from the Caribbean.

In 2008, the event took on its current name and expanded to include 24 teams, a Preliminary Round, a Group Stage (of 16 teams) and a Championship Round (two-leg, aggregate series from the quarterfinals to the final).

The tournament runs from late July to late April of the following year.

The current setup includes nine teams from North America (four Mexico, four U.S., one Canada), 12 from Central America (including an entrant from Belize), and three from the Caribbean.

Since 2005, the winner of the CCL has earned an automatic berth in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Here are the MLS teams in the 2010-11 tournament and how they qualified:

  1. Real Salt Lake—2009 MLS champs
  2. Columbus Crew—2009 Supporter’s Shield winners (best regular-season record)
  3. Los Angeles Galaxy—2009 MLS runners-up
  4. Seattle Sounders FC—2009 U.S. Open Cup champs
  5. Toronto FC—(Canadian entrant) 2010 Canadian Championship winners

MLS teams have underachieved in this tournament—something that Commissioner Don Garber has recently gone on record as saying he’d like to see change. The 1998 D.C. United team—arguably the best in MLS history—won the tournament, as did the 2000 LA Galaxy side. Columbus made it to the quarterfinals last year. But mostly, MLS teams have struggled, and they’ve never won a CCL game in Mexico.

The past five CCL finals have been won by teams from Mexico.

Both Seattle and Toronto won their first-leg Preliminary Round games last week by 1-0 scores and now travel to inhospitable Central American stadiums for the return legs.

The Galaxy, as we mentioned, got embarrassed at home in its first leg and will try to dig its way out of a 4-1 deficit in Puerto Rico tomorrow night.

For more on the CONCACAF Champions League, click here, here, and here.

Now, on to Joe Public F.C., aka “the Eastern Lions,” aka the (self-proclaimed) “Manchester United of the Caribbean”:

Joe Public is a club based in Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago. It was founded in 1996 by FIFA vice president Jack Warner, out of the ashes of T&T’s failed campaign to qualify for the ’98 World Cup.

The club has racked up three T&T Pro League championships and two Caribbean Football Union titles in its short history. It has qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League five times (it’s in the current competition), reaching the quarterfinals on three occasions.

The most famous Joe Public alum is probably T&T international and Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones:

As for the name, well, it remains somewhat enigmatic. The club website cites “the need to have a cadre of locally based players to function as home grown professionals.”

Our interpretation is that the name signifies the club’s commitment to developing domestic-based players, to boosting the grassroots of Trinidadian soccer—cultivating the “John Q. Public,” “common man” players in T&T.

If you know more of the background, please let us know in the comments.

Fox Soccer Channel has tonight’s CCL games, at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. EST, and tomorrow’s LA-Puerto Rico matchup at 8:00 p.m.

Enjoy the games.