The Portland Timbers are Champions League-bound. And that means Real Salt Lake, the team that knocked them out of the MLS Cup Playoffs, will stay at home.
The news is thanks to the approval, announced Friday, by the CONCACAF Executive Committee of a U.S. Soccer Federation proposal to change the allocation of the four US berths. Beginning with the 2104-15 tournament, one of the four spots will be given to the MLS club with the best regular-season record in the conference opposite of the Supporters' Shield winner, which this year was the Timbers. No longer will the MLS Cup runner-up receive a berth.
The other three US spots will be awarded to the MLS Cup champion, the Supporters’ Shield winner and the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup champion.
That means MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City, Shield winners New York Red Bulls, Western Conference champions Portland Timbers and USOC champions D.C. United all receive berths in the 2014-15 edition of the tournament, which kicks off next summer.
“Achievement in the MLS regular season is important," said Nelson Rodriguez, MLS executive vice president for competition, technical and game operations. "Awarding a spot to the points leader from both conferences is a worthy reward and confers greater importance on regular-season matches."
Should there be any duplication in the above US berths, or if a Canadian club captures any of the spots, the US-based MLS team with the next best regular season point total, irrespective of conference, will claim the duplicated slot.
Major League Soccer originally proposed the change to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which was then subsequently approved. U.S. 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.