There’s a pretty good chance the Seattle Sounders could return to Concacaf Champions League in 2020 and they don’t even need to win a trophy to do it. Thanks to their fourth-place finish in the Supporters’ Shield, the Sounders would qualify for the 2020 edition of the continental championship if any one of LAFC (Supporters’ Shield), Atlanta United (U.S. Open Cup) or New York City FC (top of the Eastern Conference) win, since those teams have already qualified. They’d also get in if Toronto FC wins MLS Cup since Canadian teams can only qualify through their domestic cup, which the Montreal Impact won this year.
If any team double-qualifies for CCL, the team with the next best Supporters’ Shield position gets the open spot.
Although the prediction website FiveThirtyEight.com only gives the Sounders a 4 percent chance of winning MLS Cup, those other four teams have a combined likelihood of 83 percent of winning it.
FiveThirtyEight considers the Sounders reasonable favorites to advance past FC Dallas in the first round and seems to like their chances to beat the winner of Real Salt Lake-Portland Timbers, as well. The odds of the Sounders winning at Banc of California Stadium in the conference finals are understandably quite long, but it’s worth noting that the LA Galaxy and Minnesota United went a combined 2-0-2 against LAFC.
If the Sounders don’t qualify for CCL, they will automatically qualify for the 2020 Leagues Cup. While this year’s tournament was effectively an invitational that featured four MLS teams and four Liga MX teams, next year’s will be twice the size with the four top teams from each conference who didn’t already qualify for CCL. As opposed to CCL which can add as many as eight games to a team’s early-season schedule and requires massive amounts of travel, no team will play in more than four midseason Leagues Cup games and never have to leave the country.