Since the CONCACAF Champions League was formed in 2008, the winner of the MLS Supporters Shield, the winner of the US Open Cup, and the two finalists in the MLS Cup have taken part. Thanks to a landmark decision from the CONCACAF Executive Committee today, that is no longer the case. Instead, the spot reserved for the MLS Cup runners-up will go to the team who finished on top of the conference opposite the Supporters' Shield winners.
That's right, the Portland Timbers will be in the 2014-15 Champions League.
That means more allocation money for the team and more games for the fans as the Timbers take on teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean next year. They will be joined by the New York Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City, and D.C. United in representing the United States. As of right now the only other teams to have qualified are Club America and Club Leon of Mexico, the 2013 Apertura winner and runner-up, and Panama's Tauro FC, the winner of the 2013 Apertura.
To date no MLS club has won the Champions League, although DC United and the LA Galaxy were each able to win its previous incarnation, the Champions Cup, in 1998 and 2000 respectively.
The Timbers press release:
TIMBERS TO COMPETE IN 2014-15 CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, CONCACAF APPROVES AMENDMENT TO QUALIFICATION PROCESS FOR U.S. CLUBS
Portland to join Sporting KC, New York Red Bulls and D.C. United to represent MLS next summer
NEW YORK (December 13, 2013) – CONCACAF announced today that its Executive Committee approved the amendment to the allocation of the four U.S. berths in the CONCACAF Champions League qualification process.
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.
"Achievement in the MLS regular season is important," said MLS Executive Vice President for Competition, Technical and Game Operations, Nelson Rodriguez. "Awarding a spot to the points leader from both conferences is a worthy reward and confers greater importance on regular season matches."
Major League Soccer originally proposed the change to US Soccer Federation, which was then subsequently approved. US Soccer submitted the request to CONCACAF.
All MLS clubs were made aware of the proposed change prior to the start of the 2013 season. Canada's lone Champions League berth is awarded to the winner of the Canadian Championship.The winner of the CONCACAF Champions League advances to the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup which takes place every December.