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CONCACAF Champions League: some hither, others yawn

2011 MLS Cup - Houston Dynamo v Los Angeles Galaxy

CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Head coach Bruce Arena and David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy celebrate with the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy after defeating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 in the 2011 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on November 20, 2011 in Carson, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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One player in Toronto says he’s about to play the biggest game of his career. Los Angeles Galaxy officials have made the tournament a top priority. A real one, that is; in this case, it’s not just something they said at a press conference to announce the latest made-for-marketing pre-season competition.

So, why is it that so few have ever heard of this tournament? What is it again? Yes, yes, the CONCACAF Champions League. (Not to be confused, by any stretch, with the UEFA Champions League, which everyone who has ever passed, trapped or kicked a soccer ball has certainly heard of.)

There’s always been a central conflict in this tournament: the players and teams do care, to a point anyway. But there’s precious little awareness among broader audiences. It lacks what marketers and advertisers call “brand awareness.” The quarterfinals, beginning today, will come and go with zero mention along news outlets in almost every major U.S. market.

If you’re not brand aware, allow the Seattle Times’ Joshua Mayers to assist you. Here is his primer on what this regional tournament is all about.

Two of the four Mexican teams still involved meet tonight in the first leg of their home-and-away tussle. All three MLS entries (Seattle, Toronto and the Galaxy) get into the fight Wednesday. (The full schedule is here.) I’ll have more on those matches later, but here’s something to drop around the water cooler this morning: They’re expecting a sellout crowd of 43,500 tomorrow at the Rogers Centre. So, you know for darn sure awareness has risen to Defcon 2 in Ontario.

One thing would certainly help in kicking up a broader public fuss over this competition: If an MLS team wins, you’ll certainly hear more about it, and I’ll definitely be writing more about it. That’s because the pot of gold at the end of this still-too-hazy rainbow is a trip to the FIFA Club World Cup. There, matches against global luminaries such as Barcelona or one of the South American giants could await. And wouldn’t that be a hoot – not to mention a nice beachhead for establishing a little more brand equity.