CONCACAF Champions League: Ever heard of it?

The Columbus Crew's Emmanuel Ekpo hit the game-winner in his team's Champions League group stage opener this week ... but there wasn't a big crowd there to see it.

I feel about CONCACAF Champions League the way a lot of people in my car culture city feel about public transportation:

I’m glad CCL is there, and I think it has a lot of value in a lot of ways, but I wish more people cared enough to use it.

OK, maybe that’s not my best analogy ever.

Point is, everybody around MLS wants us to believe this continent’s version of Champions League is vitally important. The teams, the coaches, the players, league officials … they all want to paint a picture of ultimate importance. “Credibility” they say is on the line.

But is it? Is CCL really that important? I’m just not sure.

Just ‘cuz The Man says it’s important, that doesn’t make it so.

Simply put, a whole bunch of soccer supporters don’t know about CCL and don’t care. Mostly empty stadiums this week in Salt Lake City and Columbus tell me so. And I know so anecdotally as well. Good soccer supporters who lived and died with the U.S. World Cup effort, and who do support an MLS team, just have no awareness that the darn thing is even going on.

I think it’s just time. Bottom line, it hasn’t been around long enough to establish any brand equity. Besides, how fired up can MLS supporters get when their team is about to face a club from Honduras, Panama or Trinidad? It’s not exactly Sox-Yankees now, is it?

All that said, maybe it’ll be bigger one day. So, you may as well be the cool kid on the block and start keeping up. Here’s my “Five things you should know about the first round of CONCACAF Champions League group play” at SI.com.

Read it. It’s terribly important.

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