MLS stumbles on world stage

STEVEN SANDOR, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:24 AM ET

The CONCACAF Champions League is turning into a major embarrassment for the MLS.

When the new format to crown the North and Central American zone champion was unveiled, the MLS looked to have five clubs in the final 16. Toronto FC would surely win the Canadian spot. D.C. United, for having the best regular-season record, and Houston, for winning the championship, would get automatic bids. And the next best teams, the New England Revolution and Chivas USA, would be given the chance to qualify.

Chivas, the Revs and TFC all crashed out. In group stage play so far, D.C. United has lost both of its games. That leaves the Dynamo as the only club who can challenge.

But, does the MLS care? Dynamo players talk about the Champions League the same way English elite teams talk about the Carling Cup -- as a competition that's secondary in importance.

When asked if MLS clubs see the CONCACAF Champions League in the same light as European teams see their Champions League, goalkeeper Pat Onstad was blunt.

"Not at this stage. But it might very well go that way in years to come."

Midfield star Dwayne De Rosario said all the right things about the competition: "We want to win everything we're involved in." But, in the same breath, he mentioned that the club's priority is making a strong push for the MLS playoffs.

As well, he said the Champions League gives the Dynamo a chance to see how deep the club is -- that means starting the reserves.

So far, the Mexicans are treating the Champs League the same way as the MLS clubs. But, save for a loss by Santos to the Puerto Rico Islanders, they haven't suffered.

Still, as a Canadian, Onstad is pulling for Montreal to keep its Cinderella streak alive in the Champions League.

"I am trying to watch them as much as I can... it's great to see them, and Puerto Rico (like Montreal, a USL team) do well. It's one of the most important competitions in the region."

Just not so important to the MLS.

-- 24 hours sports editor Steven Sandor has written about the Beautiful Game for numerous publications around the globe. The Red Card appears Wednesdays in 24 hours. 


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