While the sting of losing in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League is still fresh in the minds of every FC Dallas fan, more clarity has been revealed on how MLS teams will qualify for the tournament going forward.
CONCACAF’s January decision to conduct a qualifying tournament each fall and delay the start of the main Champions League bracket until the following February/March created a qualifying bottleneck for MLS sides. FC Dallas, along with the Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids earned spots based on 2016 results and originally were supposed to begin their group stage runs this August.
But with the new tournament format, the group stage is no longer a thing for MLS clubs and by the time the 2018 tournament rolls around a new set of MLS qualifiers will have already secured their spots by winning MLS Cup, the US Open Cup, a Supporters Shield, etc.
SI.com’s Brian Straus was able to uncover that the bottleneck has been taken care of for MLS sides so there won’t be eight qualifying teams in 2018.
So, Seattle, FC Dallas, Colorado and the Red Bulls will take their places in the round of 16 next February or March, more than a year after they booked those spots (MLS and Liga MX teams will be kept apart until the quarterfinals).
The solution will impact the 2019 CCL. Typically, the USA sends the MLS Cup, Open Cup and Supporters' Shield winners and the first-place team from the conference opposite the Shield winner. If any of those clubs are Canadian or if one team wins two trophies (as FCD did last year), the open berth(s) are determined by regular season record.
Basically the report goes on to say that the US Soccer Federation will eliminate the Shield and first-place finisher in the opposite conference, this year and next. So the 2019 CCL qualifiers from the USA will be the 2017 and 2018 MLS Cup champions and the 2017 and 2018 Open Cup champions.
Everything will be expected to return to normal after 2019.
While it is a bit of an odd solution for the coming years, at least it doesn’t completely change the fact that FCD’s big 2016 still earned them a place in the tournament for another try.