Toronto FC: How important is the Champions League to TFC?

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 29: Fans clap their hands during the second half of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals, Leg 2 game between Columbus Crew SC and Toronto FC at BMO Field on November 29, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 29: Fans clap their hands during the second half of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals, Leg 2 game between Columbus Crew SC and Toronto FC at BMO Field on November 29, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Toronto FC have another early shot at silverware in 2018, but how important is the CONCACAF Champions League to the Reds?

The CONCACAF Champions League is dawning upon us, which will give Toronto FC their first test of the season. However, the Champions League of the Americas can often by overlooked by folks across the representing countries, with nothing really generated from the competition as far as recognition or notable games.

Over the course of the past few years, clubs have elected to use reserve and/or bench players within the tournament. The CL is seen more as a preseason warm-up to MLS fixtures, which completely goes against the importance in Europe.

TFC had an amazing season back in 2016. Reaching the MLS Cup in the North only set up a great game the year after, when the Reds were finally able to get their hands on the prized domestic silverware. Yet, 2016/17 victories in the Canadian Championship have qualified the Reds for the Champions League.

Play runs from Feb. 20 and if a respective club makes it that far, all the way until April. On the plus side it’s a lot easier to reach that time frame now, as the number of participating clubs was cut from 24 to 16.

That means the format sits with the classic amount of eight total fixtures. Two legs will be played over the course of each tie, which might make scheduling that much harder for teams that go far in the competition.

Considering your perspective, there’s actually a good stipulation on the line. Winners will be represented in the 2018 Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. The Club World Cup has previously hosted winners such as Real Madrid, who weren’t shy when boasting their victories.

The drawings have been set, and Toronto FC will officially face the Colorado Rapids in the first round of the Champions League. Other MLS teams in the competition are FC Dallas, the New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders.

Stiff competitors such as Club America regularly feature in the CL, and have done pretty well in the Club World Cup, too.

The Champions League in no way should be taken any less seriously than an MLS fixture. Some clubs put complete passion onto the pitch for 90 minutes, and those are the teams that stand out from the Americas.

To be honest, there are only so many teams within North and South America that receive complete world recognition. The MLS certainly doesn’t receive the attention the English Premier League and La Liga get, so the lack of popularity is seemingly justified.

At the same time, teams need to realize that potential growth of MLS is there, but it will only come with much needed levels of patience. The best way to market a name to the world, not just to North America, is through competitions like the CONCACAF Champions League.

It’s obviously not worth throwing out the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore consistently for clashes with the opponents, but the usual lineup of the Reds has to be considered. A mixture of the youth and veterans, while packing the midfield and adjusting tactics during fixtures.

Plus, MLS really is either a league for young development, or aged legends. Sticking with development, a rather packed schedule shows the developing players just how tough a regular qualifying European schedule could be.

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Obviously it’s not the same thing as that used overseas, but it still comes close to replicating. That’s solid experience for a 19 or 20-year-old, and it’s something clubs such as the Reds can market to the biggest clubs in the world.

The Montreal Impact recently got their name out their with the sale of teenager Jean-Yves Tabla to FC Barcelona. The fee likely reached past the £5 million mark, and it also gave the Impact quite the name for other fine young players to go and develop in Quebec.

And overall, the Champions League is a nice run to get the season back underway. When taken seriously, it’s stiff competition that gets in a club’s face in a rather quick fashion, which sets them up for the domestic campaign ahead.

TFC have one of the oldest lineups in MLS. The last few primed years from Giovinco, Altidore and Victor Vazquez are counting down. Time is ticking to gather trophies, and this competition seems to be fitting for the Reds in terms of quality opponents, and the ending reward is satisfying both right now and long-term.

As a result, Tip of the Tower will provide coverage for a good shot at more glory for the North. A competition that should be taken seriously needs recognition, and in the end, so does Toronto FC.

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How important is the CONCACAF Champions League to you? Do Toronto FC have a good shot at grabbing glory within the tournament? Which players would probably be used within the competition? Let us know in the comments below.