As the 2011/12 CONCACAF Champions League anticipates the quarterfinals in March, four U.S. slots for the 2012/13 edition of the tournament have already been confirmed.
Los Angeles Galaxy will return to CCL next year as MLS (league) champion as will Seattle Sounders FC as U.S. Open Cup winner (American equivalent of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship - which is the only way Canadian teams can enter).
The other two spots are taken up by Houston Dynamo for reaching MLS Cup Final and in a positive nod to those who value league standings over playoffs achievement, Real Salt Lake will enter as a reward for having the third best record in regular season.
Los Angeles will play Houston in 2011 MLS Cup Final, giving both teams an automatic entry into 2012/13 CCL. However, LA having already qualified as league champion and Seattle - who finished second to the Galaxy - already through with their U.S. Open Cup win, a spot opened up for the American team with the next best MLS record, which belonged to Salt Lake.
This is slight vindication for those who feel too often weaker teams get into Champions League by using MLS Cup Playoffs (i.e. 2010 surprise Cup finalists Colorado and Dallas, both bowing out of the group stage in CCL this year).
But, Salt Lake will remind everyone that they too were once a MLS Cup Playoffs underdog that shocked everyone by winning the 2009 Cup, then going all the way to the 20010/11 Champions League final, barely losing to Monterrey 3-2 (aggregate) over two legs. In that tournament, Toronto and Salt Lake were drawn together in the group stage.
Toronto can join the four American MLS teams in 2012/13 Champions League by winning the 2012 Nutrilite Canadian Championship that usually takes place in the spring.
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