After FC Dallas and Vancouver’s elimination from the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, MLS participation in this competition is over for the 2016-17 competition. Previously, four U.S. based MLS teams and a Canadian MLS team would enter the Group Stage of the 2017-18 version of this tournament later this Fall. Recent changes in the CCL format, however, have eliminated any MLS participation in the CCL until the knock-out Stage of the 2017-18 CCL, which will take place in early 2018 after completion of a new CCL qualifying round among non-US and Mexico clubs.
This change created challenges for US Soccer because, under current rules, there would now be four potentially different teams who will have qualified for the CCL prior to the start of the 16 team knock-out round in addition to the four who had already qualified.
According to Brian Strauss at SI.com, US Soccer has resolved this issue. The four teams who qualified for the 2017-18 round, including FC Dallas, will still enter the competition in early 2018. The 8-team issue created by the CONCACAF format changes will be addressed by having the MLS Cup and US Open Cup champions from this year and 2018 be the CCL representatives who enter the knock-out stages in early 2019. For this season, the MLS Supporters Shield winner and the first place team from the conference opposite the Supporters Shield winner will not automatically qualify for the CCL. The system will revert back to the original arrangement for the 2019-20 CCL.
For this year, as is usually the case, two LigaMX teams, Tigres UANL and Pachuca will contest the final of the 2017-2018 CCL tournament later this month. The first leg of the match will take place on Tuesday April 18 at 8:00 CDT in Monterrey. The second leg will be played in Pachuca on Wednesday, April 26 also at 8 p.m.
This Saturday the two Texas Major League Soccer teams-FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo-begin their 2017 MLS regular seasons. These teams will play a 34 game regular season schedule, 17 home and away, finishing on Sunday, October 22. Both clubs compete in the MLS Western Conference, with the initial goal of being 2 of the 6 (out of 11) conference teams to qualify for the MLS Playoffs. The three playoff rounds lead to MLS Cup in early December when the conference champions will play a single game, at the home of the club with the most regular season points, to crown the MLS Champion
Both clubs start with dramatically different expectations. FC Dallas, which won the Supporters Shield (best record) and the US Open Cup in 2016, has high aspirations to win multiple trophies again this year. The club has already begun its season through participation in the knock-out stages of the Region’s club championship, the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champion’s League. The Dynamo are in a significantly different place. A last place finish in the Western Conference last year, combined with 3 years out of the playoffs, resulted in major changes at the club. A new manager and substantial turnover in the roster have arrived with a goal to return to the playoffs in 2017.
Unfortunately, the oddsmakers don’t provide a lot of hope for the Dynamo this season. Whereas FC Dallas is rated as the 5th most likely team (8/1 odds by Bovada) to win the 2017 MLS Cup, the Dynamo are ranked 21st out of the 22 team league at 100/1. To further throw salt on the wound, only one of the two new expansion teams, Minnesota United, face more daunting odds this year. The other expansion team, Atlanta United, despite never having played a game, are more highly rated than the Dynamo. Embarrassing to say the least.
Both Houston and Dallas face tough Saturday opening week games. The Dynamo open at home (7:30pm CST) against 2016 MLS Cup Champions Seattle Sounders. After (hopefully) successfully completing the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal round against Arabe Unido in Panama tonight, FC Dallas opens in the Stub Hub Center against perennial championship contenders LA Galaxy (3pm CST).