Alejandro Romero Gamarra - Kaku - New York Red Bulls - RBNY - Dribbles head up

With last year's change of the Concacaf Champions League to a strictly winter and spring tournament, following the intricacies of who qualifies for the 2019 edition has required more than a little guidance for most of us.

With the 2018 CCL entrants from MLS already decided based on the 2016 season, that meant spots in the 2019 tournament would be decided among honor winners from both 2017 and 2018. Toronto FC winning MLS Cup in 2017 also threw a bit of a wrench into qualification.

And now, following Atlanta United's 2-0 victory in the 2018 MLS Cup final, we now know the full field, which includes the New York Red Bulls.

Here's how the 2018 Supporters' Shield winners qualified:

When this two-year qualifying cycle started, the four berths for the U.S. and one for Canada were allocated as follows, with the teams who have already earned those berths listed in parentheses.


  1. 2018 Canadian Championship winner (Toronto FC)

United States

  1. 2017 U.S. Open Cup winner (Sporting Kansas City)
  2. 2017 MLS Cup winner (Atlanta United — we'll explain this one in a minute)
  3. 2018 U.S. Open Cup winner (Houston Dynamo)
  4. 2018 MLS Cup winner (New York Red Bulls — since Atlanta is No. 2)

Because Toronto won 2017 MLS Cup, and a Canadian team was unable to qualify by winning MLS Cup, the berth was awarded to the team that finished with the best combined points totals across 2017 and 2018. That was Atlanta, with 124. If the Five Stripes win MLS Cup having already secured a spot in CCL, their bid goes to the team with the next-best points total from 2017 and 2018, That's the Red Bulls, with 121.

Adding to the intrigue, as this year's MLS Cup winner, Atlanta have also qualified for the 2019 Campeones Cup and will host the Liga MX's Campeon de Campeones – itself contested by the 2018 Apertura and 2019 Clausura winners – with another trophy on the line next year.