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CONCACAF Champions League 101 for Real Salt Lake fans

CCL Logo 12/13
CCL Logo 12/13

This is the second time that Real Salt Lake has been a part of the Champions League, but this time the format of the tournament is very different so I thought it might be nice to get up to date on the changes and get ready for the tournament.

So lets start with the basics, this year 24 teams were selected to participate, they were divided into 8 groups based on the following criteria:

The draw will be conducted in such a way as to ensure that two or moreteams from the same association will not play in the same Group and the four USA and four Mexican Teams will be drawn into separate Groups.

Each group will have 3 teams that will play each other twice once at home and once on the road, Real Salt Lake was drawn into Group 2 with, Tauro FC of Panama and Herediano of Costa Rica and our group schedule is:

  • Tuesday, July 31st - Real Salt Lake at CS Herediano - 8pm MT
  • Tuesday, August 21st - Tauro FC at Real Salt Lake - 8pm MT
  • Thursday, August 30th CS Herediano at Tauro FC - 6pm MT
  • Tuesday, September 18th Real Salt Lake at Tauro FC - 6pm MT
  • Tuesday, September 25th Tauro FC at CS Herediano - 8pm MT
  • Tuesday, October 23rd CS Herediano at Real Salt Lake - 6pm

Teams get 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and no points for a loss, unlike past years only the team that wins their group will advance. In the event of a tie at the end of group play the following tie breakers will be used (these are different than knockout tiebreakers:

  • Greater number of points earned in matches between the teams concerned
  • Greater goal difference in matches between the teams concerned
  • Greater number of goals scored away from home in matches between the teams concerned
  • Reapply first three criteria if two or more teams are still tied
  • Greater goal difference in all group matches
  • Greater number of goals scored in group matches
  • Greater number of goals scored away in all group Matches

more to help get you ready for CONCACAF Champions League after the jump:

So while the change to the group stages has gotten a lot of attention, I actually like the changes. Fewer matches to impact teams with busy schedules, less travel with smaller groups, and perhaps the biggest change is that depending on how you finish within your group will determine how the 8 teams are seeded in the knockout rounds.

Yes, that is right for the first time there will be no second draw, teams will be rewarded or punished for their group play performance as this is the new format for the Quarter-Finals:

The eight Quarter-Finalists will be ranked 1-8 based on their standings results from the Group Stage and will be paired as follows:

  • Team 1 vs. Team 8
  • Team 2 vs. Team 7
  • Team 3 vs. Team 6
  • Team 4 vs. Team 5

The top four Group Winners with the best records (1-4) will host the 2nd Leg matches.

Tie-Breakers (Ties Among Group Stage winners) - Should the Group Winners be tied on points, the order of the teams will be determined in the following manner:

  1. Best Goal Difference
  2. Most Goals Scored
  3. Most Goals Scored Away from home
  4. Most Wins
  5. Most Away Wins
  6. Drawing of lots

This means that every goal in the 4 group stage matches matters, and that success could in large part depend on how you do in every match both at home and on the road. The seeding process continues into the Semi-Finals as well:

The Quarter-Final Winners will be placed into the following brackets:

  1. SF1 - Winner 1 vs. 8 will play the Winner of 4 vs.5
  2. SF2 - Winner 2 vs. 7 will play the Winner of 3 vs.6

The winners of 1 vs. 8 and 2 vs. 7 will host the 2nd Leg matches

So as you see your group stage performance will determine your fate all the way through the knockout rounds if you advance, all the way to the finals:

The Winner of SF1 will play the winner of Semi-Final 2 with the SF1 Winner hosting the 2nd Leg Match.

The winner in the Final shall be deemed the winner of the CCL with the loser being deemed the runner-up of the CCL.

Now all of the knockout rounds (or Championship Round- per CONCACAF) have the same tie breakers:

  • Greater aggregate number of away goals scored in regulation time in the two matches (excluding any goals scored in overtime)
  • Greater number of goals scored in the overtime periods at the end of the second match
  • Kicks from the Penalty Spot procedure (as per FIFA Laws of the Game)

Now if all of that is a bit complicated for you, trust me it could be much worse, the complete rules of the 2012/13 CCL run 37 pages.

Here are the important things to know as RSL fans, every match matters and with just 4 matches (2 home and 2 away) it is important to try to get as many points and goals as possible. It also means that every team is very likely to have to play for wins in each match, so while the road teams often would come in and bunker down looking to try and get a 0-0 draw, I expect less of that this year. I think it might be possible to win a group with a 2-1-1 record, but that would probably put you in the bottom half of the rankings for the knockout rounds and that means you would be facing a tougher task then. A team that goes 3-1-0 or 3-0-1 could be fighting for one of those top 4 spots in the seedings, so with the top 3 tie-breakers all being goals based, there can be no slowing down if you want to win your group you need to win and win big. A bad match might not kill your hopes of advancing, but doing well in all your group matches could give you an easier path to the finals for sure.

I will do a post with some background information on the other teams in RSL's group and a match preview coming up soon.