ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: The crazy 30-club Argentinian championship, whose clubs mostly have four rounds to go, will also have a crazy ending.
The top two – almost certain to be Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo or Rosario Central – will qualify automatically for next year’s Copa Libertadores. Clubs placed from third to sixth will play in a group to qualify two more for the cup and clubs placed from seventh to 18th, plus the two which did not qualify for the Liberatores in the previous group, will play off for four places in the Copa Sudamericana.
River Plate, down in seventh place after a busy year, will not participate in any playoff and will play in both cups as they won both this year and qualify as double champions.
Clearly the Copa Sudamericana continues to be a secondary competition in which the best possible clubs do not compete, as is the case in Brazil.
The bottom two clubs in the relegation averages will be relegated, so there is no indication of the championship being reduced back towards 20 clubs next year as was discussed last year.
Perhaps the new AFA committee being elected in October with possibly a new president may think differently or perhaps the present one will change things as they were so uncertain about the present championship before it started.
One can see only one benefit to these playoff – that a lot of clubs have nothing to play at this stage and these playoffs may make the final stages of the championship more interesting.
The championship continues to be closer than expected with leading clubs often finding it hard to beat lower clubs, but in the end only one of the 10 promoted clubs to enlarge the championship from 20 to 30 clubs was in the top half of the table and two were closest to relegation after the 25th round.
New tournaments take time to catch on with the public – just like the Copa Libertadores back in 1960.
Now the Copa Argentina is finally receiving more media attention and clubs are fielding stronger teams in an appearance of granting it more importance. After all, it does qualify the winner for the Copa Libertadores.
Yet there is more the AFA can do to make the competition more popular. There should be a draw for every round instead of a pre-arranged drop. The team which comes first out of the hat could gains home advantage.
With this rule, for example, Buenos Aires area teams would not be sent to San Juan to meet each other. Sending a first team so far away, with long journeys, upsets training schedules for weekend league matches.
While River Plate and Boca Juniors are very popular all around the country, others are not and would surely attract a bigger gate if they played at home.
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