Sporting Kansas City is now one of three MLS clubs slated to compete in the 2019 Concacaf Champions League.
The Houston Dynamo joined Sporting KC and Toronto FC after a 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union in Wednesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final. And a fourth team, Atlanta United FC, can join the trio on Sunday with a road win over the New York Red Bulls.
In January, Concacaf and U.S. Soccer clarified the procedures by which the U.S.-based qualifiers to the CCL are determined, specifically addressing the scenario that was triggered when Toronto FC won 2017 MLS Cup.
The 2017 MLS Cup winner was automatically set to qualify for the 2019 Concacaf Champions League, but since Toronto FC, as a Canadian team, were only able qualify for the 2019 CCL by winning the 2018 Canadian Championship, their spot will be taken by the American club with most aggregate points over the 2017 and 2018 MLS regular seasons combined. The aggregate standings are listed below.
|Team||2017 points||2018 points||Total points|
|New York Red Bulls||50||59||109|
- If Atlanta wins, they would be at 121 points. With three games remaining and nine points available, the most the Red Bulls could get is 118. The most NYCFC could get is 119 if they win all four of their remaining games.
- If Atlanta draws, they would be at 119 points. With three games remaining, the most the Red Bulls could get is 119. NYCFC’s max is also 119.
The same method will be triggered if a Canadian team wins the 2018 MLS Cup, or if a U.S. team occupies more than one berth (e.g. if Sporting KC wins the 2018 MLS Cup).
Manager Peter Vermes' men were the first American side to qualify for the 2019 Champions League by winning the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. They were slated to be joined in the spring of 2019 by the 2017 MLS Cup winner, the 2018 U.S. Open Cup and 2018 MLS Cup winners, as well as the 2018 Canadian Championship winners. But Toronto FC's triumph in the 2017 MLS Cup triggered the contingency outlined above.
The Concacaf Champions League is now played in the spring of each year using a format that removed the group stage and reduced the number of participants from 24 teams to 16. Fifteen teams qualify for the CCL based on performance in domestic league and cup play, while the 16th and final berth goes to the winner of the 16-team Concacaf League, played the fall prior to each edition of the Champions League.
MLS qualifiers - 2019 CCL
- Sporting KC (2017 U.S. Open Cup winner)
- Team with best aggregate record over the 2017 and 2018 MLS regular seasons*: Currently Atlanta United FC (118 points, as of Sept. 27)
- 2018 MLS Cup winner
- Houston Dynamo (2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner)
- Toronto FC (2018 Canadian Championship winner)
* This berth was originally designated for the 2017 MLS Cup winner. However, since that team, Toronto FC, can only qualify for the 2019 CCL as the winner of the 2018 Canadian Championship, the berth is re-assigned to the U.S. team with the best aggregate record over the 2017 and 2018 MLS seasons.