• Tuesday May 25, 2010

    CCL Team Summit important for new, veteran clubs

    MIAMI -- For two consecutive years, Cruz Azul has gone to the CONCACAF Champions League finals only to lose. That hasn't dampened the club's interest in coming back for a third straight try.

    "It is very important among the tournaments that Cruz Azul plays in," team administrator Carlos Villa said. "For us, the tournament is very important as we are participating for the third time and we have been unable to win. Now we will look for the third time to be a charm and this time to be champion."
    Gerente de Logistica

    Villa headed Cruz Azul's delegation to the CONCACAF Champions League Team Summit on Monday and Tuesday at the Intercontinental West Hotel in Miami, the third annual gathering of officials from qualified teams who either get their first taste of the tournament or are further immersed in its developments.

    "We hope to improve on what Marathon has been able to accomplish as they have reached the quarterfinals in the last two tournaments," said Rafael Enrique Spencer, the sporting advisor of fellow Honduran club Olimpia. "That's the task we have, to recover the prestige of Olimpia in an international tournament and what better place to do it but in the Champions League which is very important for us."

    Like Cruz Azul and Marathon, Olimpia is back for a third straight year in the Champions League, having played every year since its inception.

    For it, and fellow third-time returnees San Francisco of Panama, Saprissa of Costa Rica and the Puerto Rico Islanders, the summit is a chance to get a head start on the logistics of regulations, protocol, and game-day operations, while for first-timers like the Los Angeles Galaxy, Monterrey or Brujas of Costa Rica the goal is to get up to speed quickly.

    Questions on schedules, stadium signage and player eligibility were among the queries from the clubs, each of whom sent three representatives to gather information and meet the CONCACAF staff that they will interact with most.

    With the tournament two months away, starting with the first leg of the Preliminary Round July 27-29, teams should have enough time to prepare for the first kick.

    While meetings are exactly as exciting as the matches, it doesn't diminish the importance of the summit for people like Columbus Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers, whose club is back for a second consecutive year.

    "We want to be in Champions League every year," McCullers said. "We had a lot of fun. It was a great experience. It raises our profile. So we know if we win the Supporters' Shield we're going to be in the Champions League and we know we're going to be in the group play and that's definitely a goal for us."

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