The Power Rankings continue at SmallWorld, but we’re headed to Costa Rica with this one!
Costa Rica isn’t just home to Pura Vida; the Liga Promerica has some of the best club soccer on offer in the CONCACAF region.
Since SmallWorld’s homebase for the majority of the spring will be in Costa Rica, I’ll be taking the opportunity to delve into the country’s soccer scene. I’ll be providing coverage for a league that deserves more than it gets, and in the process, it might be interesting to see what lessons the US soccer system could learn from its Central American counterpart.
Thus, a strange but undeniably intriguing addition to the leagues SmallWorld covers is the Liga Promerica, Costa Rica’s top flight. The season starts on January 11, so I’m just in time to get my season predictions out there before it’s totally destroyed once the matches begin.
But before we find out where I think things will stand, you the reader must know whether to hate or love me for where each team is ranked. And how can you do either if you don’t have any partiality to any particular team?
I’m here to help. The following are some ways you can distinguish which team you’d like to support in the Liga Promerica this spring (and beyond, because once you’ve chosen a side and followed it for a season, you can’t just let it go, can you?):
- The two most famous clubs are age-old rivals Deportivo Saprissa and Liga Alajuelense. Saprissa have won the most titles, but Alajuelense have near-equal claim to superiority, only having won five less titles and being runner-up ten more times. If you want a Real Madrid or Barcelona equivalent, then, Saprissa and Alajuelense are your respective best bets, and that rivalry will not disappoint.
- If a more recently successful club is more your style, though, you might prefer Club Sport Herediano, the local club of the city SmallWorld will be operating from. Herediano just won the 2019 Apertura last month, and that title gives them three of the past five. SmallWorld will be officially neutral this season, but let the record state that we’ll be rooting on Herediano more than any other club, simply because of the proximity.
- The Cinderella success story of late is AD San Carlos, who won their first-ever title in club history in the 2019 Clausura, the second-most recent competition. Side note – just like Mexico’s Liga MX, the soccer season is divided into Apertura and Clausura seasons for each calendar year. The winners are separate from each other, so there are two crowns to be had per year.
- If you’re a hard-core underdog supporter, you might opt for ADR Jicaral, who have a stadium seating capacity of 1,000 and earned their first promotion to the top flight in 2019 after two consecutive promotion playoff losses.
- Another club outside the big three (Saprissa, Alajuelense, and Herediano) that’s had some historical success and a 13,000-seat stadium is Cartaginés. Their fun-to-pronounce name is another plus.
- There’s also Limón FC in Limón, Limón Province, which you should definitely support if you really like lemons.
- Sebastián Pagés, an 18-year old left back, recently moved to Municipal Grecia from Laredo Heat of the NPSL. If you’re grassroots-til-you-die, Grecia might be the choice for you.
- The league’s lone American, Chimdum Mez, plays striker at Santos de Guápiles, so you patriotic people will find the prospect of supporting Santos intriguing.
- La U Universitarios were dead-last in the Clausura, so they’ll need to perform well to avoid relegation next year. If you’re a Watford fan like me, supporting La U will feel natural.
- Or choose one of these two clubs that I couldn’t find anything super interesting about just to spite me: Peréz Zeledón and Guadalupe FC.
Now that you have a reason to root on each of the league’s twelve teams, let’s see how I feel their chances of winning the title are. Keep in mind, this isn’t a predicted table order, but an attempt at predciting who has the most chance of winning the title. This title match is contested by the winner of the playoff at the end (which you have to be in the top four to do) and the regular season champion.
1) Herediano – SmallWorld’s beloved are a shoe-in for the top spot. They won last time out, they’re full of quality talent, their social media presence is strong, and they have some pretty ambitious plans for a new stadium design to come out in 2021, which is a good sign of the club’s health. More than that, though, they just found a way to win when it mattered during the last campaign, and I think they’ll do it again this season. They may not win the regular season, but they’ll finish strong and take home the crown.
2) Alajuelense – *This* is the club I fully expect to finish the regular season in front. They dominated league play in the Clausura, and while their rivals Saprissa take a hit with the loss of star attacker Randall Leal to Nashville SC, Alajuelense are returning pretty much all of their major pieces. They’ll pose the biggest threat to anyone looking to take the title, but they’ll have to perform better in clutch situations if they’re going to take top honors themselves. Last year, they missed two opportunities to beat Herediano over two legs, first in the playoff final and then in the winner-take-all battle directly afterwards.
3) Saprissa – Randall Leal’s departure to MLS will hurt, but Saprissa are still a solid squad capable of and expecting success. They’ll be faced with the pressure of international competition as well, though, as they’re competing in the CONCACAF Champions League simultaneously. There are no excuses for them to finish outside the top four, but they’ll have to really bring their A game if they have a chance at winning the whole shabang.
4) Peréz Zeledón – The club was a bit unfortunate to finish sixth last time out, because they took care of pretty much all of their home fixtures and played well throughout the season. They just couldn’t get results away from home, though, and that was what kept them out of the playoff conversation. I think they’ll find it in them to secure better away form this season, and it’ll see them into a top four spot.
5) Cartaginés – Probably the most agonizing position in last season’s final league table was that of the Cartago outfit. They were even on points and goal differential with 4th place San Carlos, but lost out on goals scored. This year, I see them narrowly missing out again, but it’s entirely possible they prove me wrong. They have a pretty good squad, but they’ll have to deliver in the big games against the best teams.
6) Santos – Santos’ position in tenth after the regular season last year did not tell the full story of their season. They played well against strong competition, but draws were the death of them, as they accrued nine over the course of 22 matches. Some of their draws that could have been wins included matches at home against Herediano and away to Alajuelense and Saprissa. If they take their opportunities better this year, they certainly have the potential to be in the mix for a playoff spot.
7) San Carlos – The Toros del Norte (Northern Bulls) had a good season that earned them a playoff spot in the Apertura on the back of their surprise Clausura 2019 win. I think they’ll experience a drop in results, though, as they try to navigate higher expectations and a CONCACAF Champions League place during the season as well.
8) Guadalupe – Guadalupe feels like the Southampton of the Liga Promerica; they’re always around, but their existence is hardly noticed by most and they’re just “meh” pretty much every season. Guadalupe took care of the matches they were expected to win at home last season and even stole a home victory off of Alajuelense, but they just couldn’t secure results away from home, winning just one of their 11 away matches. They’ll have to perform better while traveling if they want to crack the top half of the table and make a run at a playoff spot.
9) Grecia – I really don’t know how it was possible for Grecia to be both so impressive for their positive results and for their negative ones during the same season last Apertura, but they did it. Wins include a 4-0 thrashing of Limón and an away victory against Saprissa. The loss column, however, shows a humbling 6-0 defeat to the same Saprissa they beat in the away fixture and a 2-1 loss to bottom-feeders UCR. They could show either side more than the other in the upcoming season, but I have no idea which it will be, and my realistic guess is that it’ll be more negative than positive.
10) Limón – Like a lemon, their season last year got more and more sour the farther along it went. They started off the season poorly and never recovered their form, and their defensive record is especially concerning to me. I don’t think they have the tools defensively to keep up with the rest of the league, and as a result, I see them struggling once again this Clausura 2020 season.
11) Jicaral – The first-tier newcomers had a fantastic Apertura campaign, finishing seventh, but they were just six points away from ending up 11th. I think that’s the direction they’ll go in this next campaign as they fall back to earth a bit. They should stay in the league for next year, though, which will be a win in itself.
12) Universitarios (UCR) – Yeah, La U really struggled in this last campaign. They couldn’t win at home, they couldn’t win away, they gave up too many goals, didn’t score enough of their own… they just haven’t performed so far this season, and I don’t see them turning it around enough to stay out of relegation.
That’s all for the first and only preseason edition of Power Rankings for the Liga Promerica! Make sure to check back in a week for the Power Rankings after Week 1 of the season.
After reading about all 12 teams in the league this year, which one have you decided to support? Let me know in the comments of the post or on SmallWorld Social – you know where to find us!
And speaking of SmallWorld Social, our Twitter page is *probably* the only place to find up-to-date information in English on the 2020 Clausura season. Give us a follow to stay posted on the biggest league news and results!
Whether you’re in the US, Costa Rica, or anywhere else in the world, we’re all in one SmallWorld. And here, our mission is always the same:
Support local soccer, unify those around you, and seek out diversity!