We finally have a little clarity on when and how the Seattle Sounders will participate in CONCACAF Champions League. After winning MLS Cup, the Sounders received one of the four automatic bids. They will be joined by FC Dallas (US Open Cup), Colorado Rapids (Supporters’ Shield runner-up) and the New York Red Bulls (best record in the East).
By the time February 2018 rolls around, we will already have four more teams from the US that have qualified. This is where some of the light has been shed to help explain how they will determine what teams will compete in the upcoming editions.
For the 2019 edition of the tournament, US Soccer and MLS have decided to only take the team(s) that won MLS Cup and the US Open Cup in 2017 and 2018 to keep it at four teams for the 2019 tournament.
Both US Soccer and MLS intend to return to the old way for the 2020 edition by having the 2019 MLS Cup, Open Cup, Shield winners, and first place team from the other conference qualify.
Typically, the Sounders and the other three teams would join the 2017-2018 edition of the tournament in August but CONCACAF decided to do away with the group stages and decided to hold the tournament in two phases with a total of 31 teams competing.
The first will take place in a home-and-away single elimination format that will run from August to October and will include 16 teams. The winner of the phase will join the other 15 teams and compete from February to May to be the best team in CONCACAF.
Canada gets their lone spot from the Canadian Championship and if Toronto FC, the 2016 winner, doesn’t win this season, they will host the winner in a one-game playoff on August 9 to determine their 2018 entry.
If a team from Canada were to win MLS Cup, or if a team was to win more than one trophy, nobody is really clear on what will happen. In the past, those situations have resulted in the US team with the best regular season record earning a spot. With two seasons to account for that system is now more difficult and is completely absent from mention.