This year was supposed to be different for MLS. With the LA Galaxy leading the charge, this was supposed to be the year an MLS team won the Concacaf Champions league, and with it, a spot in the Club World Cup. Unfortunately, after Liga MX completed their sweep of MLS teams in the quarterfinals, that dream will have to wait at least one more year. It is no secret that MLS desperately wants a berth into the Club World Cup. It is a league that is on the rise and that has gotten consistently better with each passing season. They aspire to be one of the best leagues in the world and what better way to show it off and earn respect than to compete with the best clubs in the world? I admit that these are goals that the league should be striving for, but the Club World Cup isn’t the end game. The goals that MLS wishes to achieve through the Club World Cup are simply a mirage and quite frankly, the tournament shouldn’t be in existence.
Of all the tournaments that I consider pointless and meaningless, this is right at the top of the list. In my opinion, this tournament was created by Sepp Blatter to assure his presidency by catering to all the federations that wish to be on equal footing with Europe, and therefore, ensuring those federation’s votes come election time. What FIFA and Blatter have done is create a tournament that features every federation but the structure of the tournament still heavily favors UEFA and CONMEBOL. Sadly, the smaller federations, which include Concacaf and MLS, feel honored to be there. Why? This is such a joke of a tournament that any team that participates in it should be insulted. This tournament is far from being fair to anyone outside of Europe and South America.
Why do I have such negative feelings and emotions towards this tournament? Well, let’s break it down. Let’s start with the format. Each federation has a representative that won their respective “champions league” of their region. This would make 6 teams. A 7th team, which goes to the host country’snational league champion, which usually comes from Africa or Asia, also participates. Therefore, the tournament begins with an odd number of teams which requires a play-in game between the 2 weakest teams. The entire tournament is single elimination. That means, lose 1 game and you’re out. Kind of short considering that there are only 7 teams involved, right? Not to worry, to ensure that teams don’tcome all that way for a single game, the tournament has the prestigious 5th place match on the schedule. If that doesn’t insult you enough, maybe this next fact will. The European and South American representatives get an automatic spot in the semifinals. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s as if FIFA and Blatter talked to UEFA and CONMEBOL and said, “listen, we know you two are the best federations but let’s make these little guys feel like they belong. We know that you 2 are going to make the final so do you mind playing just 1 extra game so that it looks like you earned it?” If this isn’t insulting, then I don’t know what is.
Let’s forget about the insulting format for a moment and say that the LA Galaxy qualified for the tournament and were able to take down both the European and South American giants. Would you honestly be able to say that the Galaxy is the best club team in the world? I know I wouldn’t. The truth of the matter is, no matter who wins this tournament, the UEFAteam will always be considered the best team in the world. This is not being snobbish one bit. It’s as close to a fact as an opinion can get. The best players in the world play across the best teams in Europe and they go through a gauntlet of opponents which include their league, league cup and champions league rivals. Frankly, playing against a team from another federation is insulting.
There is nothing wrong with saying that Europe has the best clubs on the planet. All the big names strive to play in Europe. They have had a monopoly on that for decades. Losing in the Club World Cup isn’t going to change that. Of the 12 times the Club World Cup has been played, Europe has won 8 while the other 4 belong to Brazilian teams. Has there been a sudden influx of Europeans in the Brazilian league? Have the top players in Brazil stayed in Brazil and snubbed the big teams of Europe? No. So why does MLS think it’ll be different if they did it? This is where the mirage comes in. Even if an MLS team were to win this, it wouldn’t change their standing in the world unless they did it on a consistent level. That is, for argument’s sake, winning 8 out of 12 titles and being in the finals for the other 4 they lost.
Lastly, would you consider the Club World Cup the most prestigious tournament in the world? No. That would belong to UEFA’s Champions League, right? Well, if people did believe that the Club World Cup is the most prestigious tournament in the world, why aren’t they watching it? The ratings for the tournament are low. They are nowhere near the ratings that UEFA Champions League has. Networks aren’t fighting for the rights to broadcast the Club World Cup, and let’s be honest, the marketing is at a minimum. Can you name the other teams involved outside of Europe and Concacaf? Probably not. So why would MLS want to win a tournament that barely gets any coverage? Wouldn’t this be the exact opposite of what they wanted?
If MLS wants to be a top, respected league in the world, playing in the Club World Cup is the wrong way of going about it. I agree that the first step is to win the Concacaf Champions League but the Club World Cup berth that goes with it is merely incidental. It shouldn’t be what you strive for. If MLS wants real competition outside of Mexico, and wants to prove to other leagues season after season that they are a league to be reckoned with, continue to grow in talent, and wish to do so on a large stage where the tournament is far from insulting, with a format that is identical to that of UEFA Champions League, then they are in luck. Such a tournament does exist in the world and can be made available to them. They just have to go a little further south...