By Brian Dunseth
CONCACAF.com Guest Analyst
We saw the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals start to fill the past two weeks, with three teams clinching berths and the rest of the field getting whittled down.
Give credit to the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy and reigning two-time champion Monterrey for doing the business early and making sure they didn't find themselves chasing the final game in the Group Stage in hopes of making it to the next round.
Think about this: Seattle has three wins, nine points and a plus-five goal difference; Monterrey has three wins and a plus-nine goal difference. Both are through to the quarterfinals.
The difference between Monterrey, Seattle and Los Angeles as opposed to Santos Laguna and Herediano (who are also both undefeated) could be attributed to the relative strength -- or weakness -- of the individual groups and the head-to-head tiebreaker rules.
In Group 1, Santos Laguna sits atop with three wins and a plus-11 goal difference. But because Aguila has struggled so mightily this time around (four losses and a minu-16 goal difference), Toronto FC still has an opportunity to bypass Santos Laguna with a lopsided win in Torreon. The chances of that happening though with the strength of Santos' squad depth? Unlikely.
How about Group 2 with Herediano sitting atop with three wins and a plus-three goal difference? It still must play Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium - where RSL has won six of its last seven - in the group finale. Salt Lake can advance with a 1-0 victory, or a two-goal win.
The good news for the Costa Rican side - no Alvaro Saborio for RSL as the Costa Rican international, who has scored 10 goals in the Champions League over two seasons but is suspended because of accumulated yellow cards.
The biggest disappointment though in terms of teams that just haven't gotten it done? That has to be Chivas de Guadalajara - which has won only one of three matches, has four points and a plus-three goal difference. Three points behind Xelaju in Group 8, it still is alive and can advance with a simple 1-0 win at home on October 25.
But why has it found itself in this situation? A loss in Guatemala and a draw in Trinidad have done the trick.
And Tigres in Group 6? One win at home and two draws on the road means that their final game at home against Alajuelense is a must win.
Did you ever think that with the changes to the Champions League this year that you would see two Mexican teams facing a must-win situation on the final day of matches - and a third still not mathematically assured?
A perfect example of why these adjustments to the format have made the tournament better.