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Groop of Def?

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Saprissa! Esteli! Again! Let's pretend like we're CONCACAF soccer experts!

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

So I will admit, I know next to nothing about soccer outside of the US and maybe Mexico when it comes to regional leagues (though I'll argue that Liga MX games are really really exciting and US fans are missing out by not tuning in), but... I can say I'm not crazy about this draw, as Saprissa is, well, really quite good. Of the 25 most recent call ups for the Costa Rican national team, 4 are current Saprissa players and 12 have played for Saprissa before going on to other leagues. Maybe that says more about the Costa Rican league than I'm letting it? But Saprissa is the biggest funnel for bigger leagues and the Ticos, followed by Herediano and Alajuelense. I'd argue that they're probably the toughest non-Mexican team we could face, outside of perhaps Toronto F.C.

Esteli... Well, they're a known quantity and I'm not terribly worried about them, but the fact they drew us at home is a little worrying...

Because I like to look at things with numbers assigned to them, I pulled up the Elo ratings from FootballDatabase. Side note fun fact : Sporting Kansas City is ranked #439 in the World.

Anyway, I pulled out Elo ratings for each team and looked at Group average ranking, ranking deviation, and the difference between the top two teams (because this competition is generally a two horse race in the group stage, though the odd, 3 team, round robin home-and-away format means anything can happen). Are we in the Grooop of Deeeeath and misery?

Yes and no.

As far as average group strength goes, we're only fifth. However, our group is really weighed down by Real Estelli, the lowest rated qualified team. That's showed by the fact that we have the second highest standard deviation in all the Groups, behind Group 7 (Leon, Metapan, and Belmopan Bandits).

What's the difference between the top two clubs? Again, doesn't look so bad, only 81 Elo points between us and Saprissa. This is only the 4th highest difference.

Our big problem? Saprissa is the highest rated non-Liga MX club in the CCL. The Elo difference ballparks to about a 39% chance that Sporting Kansas City advances. Sooooo slightly worse than a coin flip.

All that said, and like I said, it's a short Group stage and anything can happen, and even though the home draws are frustrating, and we're going to have a grinding and grueling season, I do think that this club places a lot of emphasis on this tournament, and I'm really excited to see how it plays out.

Here's a table of numbers if that's your thing. It's my thing.

Group 1 Team 1 Rating Team 2 Rating Team 3 Rating Group Average Strength Rank Deviation Top Two Dif
Group 1 Pachuca (Mexico) 1446 Real España (Honduras) 1368 Municipal (Guatemala) 1410 1408 4 39 38
Group 2 Sporting Kansas City (USA) 1435 Saprissa (Costa Rica) 1516 Real Esteli (Nicaragua) 1227 1393 5 149 81
Group 3 New York Red Bulls (USA) 1372 Toronto FC or Impact de Montreal (Canada) 1278 FAS (El Salvador) 1345 1332 7 48 27
Group 4 Tauro FC (Panama) 1381 D.C. United (USA) 1262 Waterhouse FC (Jamaica) 1250 1298 8 72 119
Group 5 Olimpia (Honduras) 1441 Portland Timbers (USA) 1353 Alpha United (Guyana) 1247 1347 6 97 88
Group 6 Alajuelense (Costa Rica) 1503 Cruz Azul (Mexico) 1576 Chorrillo FC (Panama) 1380 1486 1 99 73
Group 7 Leon (Mexico) 1574 Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) 1403 Belmopan Bandits (Belize) 1250 1409 3 162 171
Group 8 Comunicaciones (Guatemala) 1494 Club America (Mexico) 1545 Puerto Rico Bayamon FC (Puerto Rico) 1346 1462 2 103 51