As first reported below in November, Portland will play in next year’s CCL.
Beginning with the 2014-2015 edition, the four U.S. berths will be awarded to: (1) the MLS Cup champion, (2) MLS Supporters’ Shield winner, (3) the MLS club with the best regular season record in the conference opposite the Supporters’ Shield winner, and (4) the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion. The qualification method for the third berth listed above replaces the slot previously awarded to the MLS Cup runner-up.
In light of the CONCACAF decision, the clubs representing the U.S. in the 2014-2015 Champions League will be:
- Sporting Kansas City – MLS Cup 2013 champion
- New York Red Bulls – MLS Supporters’ Shield winner in the 2013 regular season
- Portland Timbers – MLS club with best regular season record in the conference opposite the MLS Supporters’ Shield winner
- D.C. United – Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup 2013 champion
Should there be any duplication in the above U.S. berths, or if a Canadian club captures any of the above, the U.S.-based MLS team with the next best regular season point total, irrespective of conference, will claim the duplicated slot said today’s press release.
Their criticism may have been unfair to US Open Cup Winners DC United. but following their triumph over Real Salt Lake, many MLS fans were worried that a weak side would be representing the United States in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). Ben Olsen’s side had finished bottom of the league with just 16 points from 34 games.
Currently the United States’ four berths fall to the Open Cup Winners, Supporters Shield Winners, the MLS Cup Winners and the MLS Cup losing finalists. The winners of the Voyageurs Cup in Canada also qualify, regardless of MLS success. Joining DC United thus far will be Supporters Shield winners, New York Red Bulls.
Under proposals believed to have been sent to CONCACAF by MLS, a change will be made and the MLS Cup losing finalists will not qualify for the 2014/15 CCL. The place instead will fall to the highest placed side in the regular season from the conference which did not claim the Supporters Shield. New York Red Bulls won the Supporters Shield and therefore take the available Eastern Conference berth.
Portland Timbers finished top of the Western Conference and would therefore qualify for the Group Stages which would begin in August 2014.
MLS are said to have sent the proposal to CONCACAF and are awaiting approval. The change, if approved, would have to be announced very soon.
After the second legs of the Conference Finals on November 24, the two sides to have qualified for MLS Cup will both believe themselves to have secured a place in MLS Cup.
At that point, it would be politically awkward to announce only the winners of the final would qualify. That could be especially awkward if Real Salt Lake play Sporting Kansas City or Houston. Should Portland be in the final, then presumably the other finalist would qualify.
One club who may have some objection is Sporting Kansas who finished second to New York in the regular season two points ahead of Portland.
If the overall aim is to improve the quality of the sides entering the CONCACAF Champions League, it could be argued that the side finishing second in the MLS Table, regardless of conference, would be more deserving.
However, the proposal is to allow Conference Champions the honour, pending CONCACAF approval.
The change has been mooted before by fans, seeking creative ways to enhance MLS’s success rate in the Mexican dominated competition. No MLS side has won it since the competition was restructured and the prize is very lucrative, a place in the World Club Cup.
Three MLS Clubs, LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas secured places in the quarter finals of this year’s tournament which kicks off in March. Galaxy play Tijuana, Sporting face Cruz Azul and San Jose play Toluca. The other tie sees Alajuelense play Arabe Unido in the only tie not involving Mexican or American sides. These ties start on March 11 2014.
We are trying to reach MLS and CONCACAF for comment and US Soccer said the matter was not within their jurisdiction.