Concacaf League: What you need to know about Forge’s continental campaign

Forge FC will carry the Canadian Premier League flag once more into continental competition.

The CPL champs are set to kick off their 2020 Concacaf League campaign on Thursday in El Salvador when they face Club Deportivo Municipal Limeño (8pm ET/TSN 3) in the preliminary round of the tournament. Should Forge prevail, it will meet Tauro FC in Panama in the round of 16 on Nov. 3.

This is Forge’s second Concacaf stint, after falling to Honduran side Olimpia in the round of 16 in the 2019 tournament.

Here are what you need to know about Concacaf League, Forge’s chances in 2020, and what’s next…

BROADCAST ALERT: Forge FC vs. Municipal Limeño, Thursday Oct. 22 at 8pm ET on TSN3

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.

The good news for Forge fans is that Municipal Limeño is far from a top team in this competition, and much more comparable to Antigua than a top Honduran team. Thursday will mark Limeño’s debut it continental competition, too.

RELATED READING: Looking back on Forge FC’s inaugural Concacaf League campaign

That said, travelling to El Salvador comes with challenges. Forge coach Bobby Smynriotis warned OneSoccer about the unpredictably of playing in Central America.

“Sometimes in these games there are banana peels, in a way, so you have to be careful,” Smyrniotis said.

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 quarter-final appearance could be enough for Forge, who would need to beat Limeño and Tauro to get there.

After that, well, Forge could lose and still qualify for the Champions League as one of two quarter-finalists with the best point overall totals. A semifinal appearance would also see Forge qualify for next year’s Champions League.

Forge’s bracket is quite friendly, as their potential opponents in the quarter-finals are Verdes (Belize) and Arcahaie (Haiti), who are both first-time Concacaf competitors, and Jamaica’s Waterhouse, who has never made it past the final eight.

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: Bekker, Forge embracing Concacaf League stage: ‘It’s easy to get excited for’

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.

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 a spot in the Round of 16 over time, or earning the CPL a second spot entirely.

Maybe, if Canadian clubs continue to perform at Concacaf League level, that list of clubs could include a CPL side.

A chilly knockout round

Grab your toques: Forge FC’s season could stretch deep into the Canadian winter.

While preliminary and round of 16 Concacaf League matches are single ties, the quarter-finals and beyond are two-legged affairs, potentially bringing Central American teams to Canada as early as December.

Semifinal and Final dates, meanwhile, are set for January 2021.

Now, in the world of COVID-19, it’s hard to guarantee much in the way of competitions and scheduling, but, could you imagine? It would pair well with Forge’s Canadian Championship final against Toronto FC set for this winter.

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