Since the CONCACAF Champions league switched to its current format in 2008-2009, five of the six finals have been an all-Mexican affair; the only exception being 2010-2011 when Real Salt Lake made a surprise appearance. In fact, of the 24 teams to reach the semi-finals, prior to this season, only 7 (~30%) were NOT Mexican teams. To say that Mexico has dominated the Champions League is a bit of an understatement. However, like at the national level, the tide in CONCACAF might finally be turning.
Thanks to a great World Cup this past summer, Costa Rica is situated 13th (two spots behind Spain) in FIFA’s rankings. Costa Rica is followed by Mexico (21st), USA (32nd), and Panama (61st). By the way, Canada is ranked 116th, sandwiched between powerhouses Niger and Mauritania (above) and Liberia and Kenya (below). However, Costa Rica is showing that their success at the World Cup was no fluke as their club teams are having similar success.
In the group stage of this year’s Champions League, of the 8 group winners, 3 were Costa Rican, 1 was Honduran, 2 were MLS (Montreal and DC United), and, surprisingly, only 2 were Mexican. Looking at this season’s semi-finalists, 2 (Alajuelense and Herediano) are Costa Rican, 1 is Mexican (America), and 1 is Canadian (Montreal). With last nights ‘upset’ of America, by Herediano (3-0), it is quite possible that this year’s final does NOT include a Mexican team.
The lack of dominance this season by Mexican teams bodes well for the increased credibility of both the CONCACAF Champions League and the conference itself. However, we must not get too excited as this is one year. The key will be whether this trend continues going forward. With Vancouver entering the foray for the first time this summer, I am looking forward to seeing how Vancouver does against the Americas other top teams.
What are your expectations for Vancouver this summer? How should Robbo set his lineup?
Oh and GOOD LUCK TO MONTREAL TONIGHT!!!!!