With the start of the CONCACAF Champions League comes a revamped layout that alters the approach to the Group Stage of the tournament.
Those changes start by pitting just three teams against each other in a home-and-away scenario spread out over eight groups. Only the top team from each group will move on to the quarterfinals, but before they do, there's something extremely important to keep in mind.
This is a format were goal difference, after points, will be a critical tiebreaker - especially fo seeding in the quarterfinals.
What does that mean initially? It means that we most likely will see a different approach by the Mexican clubs who have long used the Group Stage to field a lineup blended with regulars, reserves and youth players. Gone are the days where a team could risk of poor results to start out the tournament. This time around, it's incredibly unforgiving.
The emphasis is now placed firmly on winning games at home -- and by large margins. Those mistakes, both physical and mental, can now haunt teams in ways we've never seen before. "Remember that goal we gave up instead of holding on for the shutout......" could be a huge talking point at the end of October.
Approaching road games become incredibly tricky as well. If a team finds itself trailing by a goal, will coaches risk making that tactical offensive substitution to try to earn points on the road? Is the risk (depending on the opponent) of being aggressive with that sub worth the reward?
For the teams in groups along the Mexican powerhouses - they're gonna have to find that punching bag and run up the score as high as possible. Because when they find themselves at Monterrey or Santos Laguna, goal difference could be the saving grace.
And don't forget about the changes involving yellow cards. If a player earns two yellows through the quarterfinals, he'll sit the next match. But it's not just the yellows that you have to be aware of.
Red cards, also, can affect not just the game at hand, or the following match through suspension, but it could also cost you in the goal difference column. If a team has a player ejected, their opponents could go all out in hopes of improving their goal difference.
For Major League Soccer, Commissioner Don Garber has gone public with the statement that for MLS to take the next step, its teams must win the CONCACAF Champions League and represent the region at the FIFA Club World Cup. That should provide plenty of motivation for the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake.
But don't think that statement went unnoticed in Mexico.