Forge FC looks to improve upon its showing in last year’s Concacaf League and also inch closer to a berth in the 2021 Champions League when it faces Tauro FC in Panama on Tuesday (8:00 p.m. ET/TSN3 & TSN5).
Recent changes to the Concacaf League format has guaranteed Forge two chances to clinch a Champions League spot if it advances to the quarter-finals, while also making every match in the competition single-leg ties.
Forge kicked off its second Concacaf League campaign last month with a trip to El Salvador and a 2-1 win over Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño in the preliminary round. Anthony Novak’s thundering blast sealed a victory for Forge and sent the CPL Champions through to the round of 16 for the second time in as many years.
Forge fell to Honduran side Olimpia in the round of 16 during its first Concacaf League stint in 2019.
Here are what you need to know about Concacaf League, Forge’s chances in 2020, and what’s next…
BROADCAST ALERT: Forge FC vs. FC Tauro, Tuesday Nov. 3 at 8pm ET on TSN3 & TSN5
How does Forge stack up in Concacaf League?
To put it bluntly, we don’t know. Forge’s 2019 Concacaf League run is the only thing we can go off of and it was, well, far from conclusive.
A solid preliminary round win over Guatemala’s Antigua GFC was a shot in the arm for the CPL. Forge was dispatched by Honduran giants Olimpia in the next round, though, cooling premature thoughts of Forge making a deep run.
Forge’s win over Municipal Limeño last month was a good showing, sure, but it wasn’t exactly against a giant of the Concacaf region, as the Salvadorans are more comparable to Antigua than a top Honduran team.
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Tauro FC represents a much more intimidating challenge as the most successful club in Panama, and one of the top teams in Central America: 13 Panamanian league titles, Concacaf League semi-final appearances, and six appearances in the Concacaf Champions League.
How could Forge qualify for the 2021 Concacaf Champions League?
The top six teams from Concacaf League qualify for the 2021 Concacaf Champions League, which means a victory over Tauro and a quarter-final appearance puts Forge in a great spot.
Concacaf announced last Thursday it has installed two “play-in” matches featuring the losers of the quarter-finals. Winners of those matches, along with the four semi-finalists, will qualify for the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.
This means a win in the quarter-final or the play-in round, would be enough for Forge – two opportunities to clinch a spot.
Previously, the remaining two teams to advance to the Champions League (who didn’t reach the semifinals) were decided by a mini-table, with the sides collecting the most points across the Concacaf League advancing to the region’s premier club competition.
Could CPL’s Concacaf “ranking” be boosted?
Concacaf uses a five-season rankings system, dubbed the “Concacaf Club Index,” to determine the seeding for future competitions. Playing under the “Canada 2” slot (“Canada 1” going to the Canadian Championship winner), Forge started from the bottom in 2019 when the Concacaf League was expanded from 16 to 22 teams.
Forge (and “Canada 2”, by extension) is the lowest-ranked team in the competition despite collecting 9.5 points last year – with wins, draws, stages advanced, Champions League qualification, and Concacaf League appearances being calculated.
RELATED READING: Forge gets extra shot at Champions League berth via retooled Concacaf League
That 9.5-point tally was the sixth-most collected by any team in the 2019 competition, a good omen for how CPL sides could climb the ladder and earn key home-field advantage and drawing lesser opponents in the years to come.
Forge’s win over Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño gave the club 5.5 points on the season and another win against Tauro would vault them well up the coefficient table, enough to earn a higher seed in the preliminary round in 2021.
Currently, the top nine ranked Central American clubs (league champions and runners-up from Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, etc.) and the runner-up of the Caribbean Club Championship earn a bye to the second round. There is a possibility of earning Canada an automatic spot in the round of 16 over time, or earning the CPL a second spot entirely.
Maybe, if Canadian clubs continue to perform, and Forge make deep runs at Concacaf League level, that list of clubs could include a CPL side.
On the road again…
The farther Forge advances, the more they’ll play on the road.
Alterations to the CONCACAF League implemented single-legged ties throughout the tournament and, since Forge is the tournament’s lowest seed, they’ll play every single match on the road, including in the crucial quarter-final against Jamaican side Waterhouse or Arcahaie of Haiti.
Forge’s match against Tauro will bring their 58th day competing from a sequestered hotel location in 2020 – a staggering total but, with a record of 7-4-1, it’s clear Forge can handle it.