As you may have heard, the Guatemalan federation (FEDEFUT) is at odds with FIFA, and that dispute has resulted in FIFA declaring that FEDEFUT will be suspended until the dispute is resolved. A FIFA suspension is no small thing: in effect, Guatemala has been booted out of the international football community until...whenever FIFA and FEDEFUT resolve their differences.
The impact of the suspension will be felt in many ways, but only one is likely to affect the New York Red Bulls significantly: Guatemalan clubs in CONCACAF Champions League will almost certainly be withdrawn from the competition as a consequence of FEDEFUT's suspension.
The creates a little confusion regarding RBNY's CCL group in particular, which includes a Guatemalan club: Antigua GFC.
CONCACAF has clarified its position on the matter, however. Making clear that the entire matter is in FIFA's hands and FIFA has stated the suspension will not take effect until October 1, allowing FEDEFUT time to comply with FIFA's directives on the issue, a CONCACAF spokesperson explained to Once A Metro:
Per the statement, [FIFA has] given the Guatemalan Federation until October 1 to comply. Until such time, scheduled football activities, such as the Red Bull match at Antigua in late September, are unaffected. Should a suspension later occur and Antigua GFC were ruled out of international play, they would by rule forfeit any match affected by a score of 3-0.
So there you have it. From RBNY's perspective, this is good news and less good news. Here are the current Group F standings:
Both RBNY and Alianza have one game left to play against Antigua after they play each other on September 15. CONCACAF's decision is that Antigua will forfeit the games it cannot play. And since FEDEFUT's suspension won't kick in, if at all, until October 1: RBNY will almost certainly have to play Antigua on September 27 in Guatemala.
When and if FEDEFUT is suspended and Antigua is booted from CCL, then Alianza will get an automatic 3-0 win over Antigua to add to its tally.
What does it mean? First, it means that the RBNY-Alianza match is not going to automatically decide who wins Group F. Because Antigua has not been formally ejected from CCL. At the very least, we should expect one more game to have to be played after RBNY plays Alianza. And it may be both if FEDEFUT kisses and makes up with FIFA before October 1.
Head-to-head tiebreakers may still come into play, so RBNY will do itself many favors by beating Alianza. A win puts RBNY out of Alianza's reach, and Antigua would need to play both its games and win them convincingly to sneak past the Red Bulls on tiebreakers. We do not currently expect Antigua will get to play both games, but that is in the hands of FEDEFUT and FIFA, not CONCACAF or the Red Bulls.
So RBNY wants to win, as it did before it learned of Antigua's potential expulsion from the tournament.
A tie that hands Alianza the tiebreaker advantage is less helpful (i.e. any score draw of 2-2 or higher), since it would mean Alianza could get to six points easily with an Antigua suspension, and RBNY could find itself needing a win in Guatemala to progress. (How motivated will Antigua be in CCL with a suspension hanging over it? A very good question.)
A draw that favors RBNY in the tiebreakers with Alianza (0-0) is also helpful. A 1-1 tie would send RBNY to Guatemala likely needing a high-scoring draw or win to progress, on the assumption Alianza gets itself an automatic 3-0 win from an Antigua forfeit.
But these are future considerations. The simple fact is that Group F will not officially be settled on September 15. RBNY can make its progress very likely with a win, eliminating Alianza and only theoretically catchable by Antigua, who may not be in the tournament long enough to do any catching.
Everything else is a series of complications we can hope do not need to be considered.
And spare a thought for Suchetiequez in Group H, currently tied on points with FC Dallas. The Guatemalan club had been looking at a fairly straightforward home-and-away mini-knockout with FCD to decide which team advanced to the next round. Now it might be effectively be forced to play in Dallas on September 28, with the knowledge it (probably) won't get to play the home leg of the series, and FCD will advance by forfeit regardless. It is a fine mess FIFA and FEDEFUT have got CCL into.
Importantly, there is at least clarity from CONCACAF about the management of the competition moving forward. The situation is some distance from ideal, as is the proposed solution - but at least all teams affected know what they are up against. And that means both RBNY and Alianza know exactly what is at stake in tonight's match. RBNY will not automatically be eliminated or advanced with any result - but a win would make it the near-prohibitive favorite to make the next round (and a loss would be potentially catastrophic).