CONCACAF

What it takes to win the Champions League by Jacob Beckett

There's something great about knockout tournaments, especially involving teams that are completely unfamiliar with each other. NCAA March Madness and the World Cup are perfect examples; seeing your favorite team play against a relative unknown like Murray St. or Ghana carries a little extra intrigue than your average game against a conference opponent. For MLS fans, CONCACAF Champions League embodies this opportunity.

Increasingly, CCL has been painted as an MLS vs. Liga MX referendum, one in which MLS teams steadily gain but never overtake Mexico's dominant position in the region. But lost in that narrative is that CCL includes teams from a handful of other countries, too. These MLS-Liga MX matchups will get the majority of publicity (starting with Sporting KC-Toluca in the first knockout round), but seven other MLS/Liga MX teams have to knock off Central American or Caribbean opponents before those glamour matchups are set in stone. If you think these first round matchups are just a formality, just ask an FC Dallas fan how their campaign went last year (spoiler alert: they lost to Panamanian side Tauro before they even got to face a Mexican team).

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Champions League: How Much is it Worth to an MLS Club? by Drew Olsen

The major talking point concerning the CONCACAF Champions League, and gaining entry into the tournament, is the payroll increase that MLS affords a club that qualifies. Now, this isn't the sizable increase for a club that we see for a team in Europe, but it has the potential to be a game-changer in MLS, depending on the team and its ownership. Most figures concerning team salary/payroll are generally guarded for obvious reasons. However, rather than using official numbers, I went through the data generously provided by the Players Union and calculated the accrued difference in pay between when the team won entry and the following year after the increase.

Now, as it happens, the Union only has data posted as far back as 2007, that's okay. Since the tournament underwent changes, adapting to it's current format back in 2008.

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Obviously, this is still a small sample size, but it gives you a rough figure on how this could help DC United and the other Champion-League-bound clubs this season.  A big caveat to using the Unions' data is that its just a snap shot at a given point in the season. Not necessarily what they paid out in dues for the entire campaign.

An obvious tip-off to that is Seattle dropping payroll from 2009 to 2010. They didn't cut funds, but because late in the season they traded away Freddie Ljungberg to Chicago, his cost was associated with their club despite Seattle playing the majority of his contract for the season.

This is just one example among 20 unique situations. No season is the same. The LA Galaxy and their 16% cut in 2011 largely came from David Beckham's greatly reduced fee. 2013 comes and that fee is entirely off the book with his trip to PSG and the Galaxy not replacing his huge contract with another high paid designated player. Instead they signed Omar Gonzalez.

Still a team gaining access to the Champions League enjoys a nice 9% raise in their annual spending, and as is the case in other leagues, dollars spent correlate to points and position in the table to some degree.