When the newly-formatted CONCACAF Champions League debuted in September of 2008, the critics were quick to jump all over Major League Soccer for failing to compete at a respectable level in an international competition. It was arguably a fair complaint given an initial 0-1-3 (W-D-L) record led to early Preliminary Round exits for Chivas USA and the New England Revolution against clubs from Panama and Trinidad, respectively. Move forward two years and the league is showing improvement in the competition.
Of the nine leagues that have been represented in more than one edition of the tournament, MLS got off to an embarrassing start as the worst league based on points percentage despite the Houston Dynamo reaching the Quarterfinals, thanks in part to those opening round results. Assigning points to each match, including head-to-head series, the percentage of points earned out of what was possible came to .222 that year with an eighth-place finish in the home (.296) and away (.148) percentages. MLS clubs were winless in nine road matches in the inaugural edition (0-4-5) with only Panama joining MLS without a road victory (0-2-6).
But since then, the league has improved.
In the second edition of the CCL, Major League Soccer ranked fourth in overall points percentage (.385) and fifth in home percentage (.462). On the road, the league made a shocking improvement to number two (.308).
Through the Preliminary Round and two matches into the current Group Phase, the league has continued to see improvements this year in two of the three categories, climbing to third in overall percentage (.476) and second at home (.714). Road results, however, have slipped to seventh (.238).
In total for the three tournaments, Major League Soccer’s percentages rank sixth overall and at home. On the road, the league is fifth.
But what about the others?
Mexico, to no surprise, is nearly perfect. Through the three years of the tournament, the Primera Division has been number one in all categories with two exceptions. In the inaugural 2008-09 tournament Mexican clubs finished tied with Honduras for third in road percentage behind first-place Panama and second-place USL-1 (now USSF Division-2). The league currently ranks second in that same category behind the USSF Division-2, represented by Puerto Rico, which posted a 4-1 victory over then MLS-leader Los Angeles in its lone road contest thus far.
The second division of US Soccer has been the big stunner in the tournament over its first three years. The runs of the Montreal Impact and Puerto Rico Islanders to the Quarterfinals and Semifinals of the inaugural tournament made headlines. Since then, the Islanders have continued represent the second tier well. The USSF-D2/USL-1 league currently ranks second overall (.520) and on the road (.396) through three years, and is third overall at home (.630).
The total figures for the three years did result in another shocking figure as the Trinidad & Tobago Pro League currently ranks third in points percentage for play on the road at .333 for a 4-2-8 record.
The greatest disparities between all-time home and road results in the CCL belong to Costa Rica and Panama. Costa Rica ranks fifth at home (.545) and eighth on the road (.182) while Panama has the greatest margin, ranking fourth at home (.608) and ninth while away (.157).
MLS clubs have found their greatest success against clubs from El Salvador with a points percentage of .542 overall and .833 at home. They also have a .833 average at home against clubs from Panama, the only other league in which they have earned at least half the points possible overall (.500). MLS sides are also over the .500 mark at home against Honduran clubs (.667).
Although MLS clubs have struggled on the road, the league has seen success against Costa Rica with a surprising .667 points percentage and is at .556 against USSF-D2 clubs away from home. While the futility in Mexico has garnered many headlines, the .083 points percentage against the confederation giants in their home nation is equal to that of the MLS results in Honduras.
With RSL hosting Toronto Thursday, only two clubs will face competition other than domestic rivals. The Columbus Crew play host to Joe Public of Trinidad & Tobago Tuesday. MLS clubs all-time are .389 overall and .333 at home against clubs from T&T. The Seattle Sounders travel to play Saprissa Tuesday. MLS sides are .417 overall against clubs from Costa Rica.
Where They Rank (based on points percentage)
League … Overall … Home … Away
Costa Rica … 5 … 5 … 8
El Salvador … 9 … 8 … T6
Guatemala … 7 … 7 … T6
Honduras … 3 … 2 … 4
Mexico … 1 … 1 … 1
MLS … 6 … 6 … 5
Panama … 4 … 4 … 9
Trinidad … 8 … 9 … 3
USSF-D2 … 2 … 3 … 2