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MLS needs strong Champions League showing
New Jersey Star-Ledger, February 22nd, 2011 3:50PM

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Because Columbus and Real Salt Lake meet in the quarterfinals -- the first leg is Tuesday night (8 pm, live, Fox Soccer Channel -- MLS is guaranteed of having a representive in the semifinals of Concacaf Champions League, but MLS hasn't had a team lift the region's top club crown since 2000.

In 1998, two years after MLS launched, D.C. United won the tournament, then known as the Concacaf Champions Cup. In 2000, the Los Angeles Galaxy beat Olimpia of Honduras, 3-2, in the final.

Writes Frank Giase, it was the kind of bellwether victory that many thought would signal the league’s arrival in Concacaf, and that a rivalry with Mexican clubs, which had won the majority of the titles dating to the first tournament in 1962, was about to begin. But it never happened.

By 2003, MLS teams were nowhere in sight as Mexican clubs occupied all four semifinal places. In the ensuing years, the Fire (2004), D.C. United (2005) and both D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo (2007 and 2008) reached the semifinals, but all failed to advance to the final. The bottom line is this: If MLS wants to be taken seriously, it has to step up and start winning its own region.

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