And how the 32-year-old forward sees it, accomplishing that requires constructing a roster that prioritizes CCL above all else.
“What I would like to see is, even if it’s gotta be me one day, I’m going to build a team one day just to win the Champions League,” Altidore said in an Extratime exclusive interview. “Literally just for that because I think it’s so important for the league to win that. To have an MLS team go to the FIFA Club World Cup is huge and to consistently have that like they have in Liga MX is only going to help in so many ways. So I think you have to build a team for that competition specifically.”
Perhaps Altidore’s Revs will change the outcome in 2022, as they’re already into the quarterfinals after Haiti’s Cavaly AS withdrew from their Round of 16 series after being unable to secure the proper visas for travel to the United States. New England qualified via their 2021 MLS Supporters’ Shield title, while other league participants are New York City FC, Seattle Sounders FC, Colorado Rapids and CF Montréal.
And in Altidore’s mind, the MLS squad most prepared to surpass the final CCL hurdle – be it in 2022 or beyond – is one ripe with experience and depth.
“What I would like to see is a team just say, ‘This is how we’re going to build the team with as much experience as we can, the most experience of guys that can play at that level,’” Altidore said. “Because I think you need players that can play at that level. When you play the Liga MX games, the stakes are high and the level’s a bit higher, I’ll just be honest with you. So I think that’s what you have to build for and one year I’d love to see a team just put all their resources into that and trying to go for broke in that competition.”
New England could be positioned to accomplish that, with manager and sporting director Bruce Arena winning the Concacaf Champions' Cup in 1998 with D.C. United. The Revs also return their Designated Player trio of midfielder Carles Gil (reigning MLS MVP) and forwards Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou, while goalkeeper Matt Turner's summertime transfer to Arsenal is delayed with CCL ambitions in mind. Their three key offseason additions – Altidore, center back Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Sebastian Lletget – are also swimming in experience, making a combined 200 US men’s national team appearances thus far.
The challenge MLS teams often face, though, is balancing CCL with their league slate. Physical and mental fatigue are real hurdles, and Altidore acknowledges league priorities are often front and center. But an advantage, Altidore noted, is there’s no danger of bouncing down to a second division should results falter.
“You’re not going to get relegated, so you’ll be able to come back in the league next year,” Altidore said. “But obviously I get that there’s ownership and there’s other things, what winning an MLS Cup does. I get all those consequences, but one day I’d love to see a team just go for broke in that competition and try to win it. But it’s easier said than done as we all know.”
Altidore has first-hand experience with those difficulties, starring in 2018’s final for Toronto. He scored in the second leg at Chivas Guadalajara, which ended in a 3-3 aggregate draw before losing on penalty kicks to the Liga MX side.
That setback came on the heels of Toronto’s 2017 treble of MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and the Canadian Championship. To this day, Altidore said “it’s tough because we were right there” and contended PKs aren’t a crapshoot like many believe.
One day, possibly with New England in 2022, Altidore believes the fortunes will turn.
“I want to see an MLS team win it so bad,” Altidore said. “I think it’d really do a lot for the league.”