There is still only one MLS club that has officially qualified for the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL)
CONCACAF and the US Soccer Federation on Monday clarified the procedures by which the US-based qualifiers to the CCL are determined, specifically addressing the scenario that was triggered when Toronto FC won 2017 MLS Cup.
The 2017 MLS Cup winner was automatically slated to qualify for the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League, but since Toronto FC, as a Canadian team, can only qualify for the 2019 CCL by winning the 2018 Canadian Championship, their spot will be taken by the US-based club with most aggregate points over the 2017 and 2018 MLS regular seasons combined.
Following the 2017 MLS campaign, New York City FC currently hold a two-point lead over Atlanta United and the Chicago Fire for the berth vacated by Toronto FC.
The same method will be triggered if a Canadian team wins 2018 MLS Cup, or if a US-based team occupies more than one berth (e.g. if a US-based MLS team wins both the 2018 U.S. Open Cup and 2018 MLS Cup).
Sporting Kansas City were the first US-based team to qualify for the 2019 Champions League by winning the 2017 U.S. Open Cup. They were slated to be joined in the spring of 2019 by the 2017 MLS Cup winner, the 2018 U.S. Open Cup and 2018 MLS Cup winners, as well as the 2018 Canadian Championship winners. But Toronto FC's triumph in the 2017 MLS Cup triggered the contingency explained above.
Beginning in 2018, the CONCACAF Champions League will be played in the spring of each year using a new format that removed the group stage and reduced the number of participants from 24 teams to 16. Fifteen teams qualify for the CCL based on performance in league and cup play, while the 16th and final berth goes to the winner of the 16-team CONCACAF League, played the fall prior to each edition of the Champions League.
The matchups and schedule for the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 were determined in December.
MLS qualifiers – 2018 CCL
- Seattle Sounders FC (2016 MLS Cup winner) vs. Santa Tecla (SLV) -- Feb. 22 & March 1
- FC Dallas (2016 Supporters’ Shield winner) vs. Tauro FC (PAN) -- Feb. 21 & Feb. 28
- New York Red Bulls (2016 1st-place Eastern Conference team) vs. CD Olimpia -- Feb. 22 & March 1
- Colorado Rapids* vs. Toronto FC -- Feb. 20 & Feb. 27
- Toronto FC (2016 & 2017 Canadian Ch'ship winner) vs. Colorado Rapids -- Feb. 20 & Feb. 27
* = Since FC Dallas won both the U.S. Open Cup and Supporters' Shield in 2016, one of the two US-based slots goes to the team with the next best regular season record
MLS qualifiers - 2019 CCL
- Sporting KC (2017 U.S. Open Cup winner)
- Team with best aggregate record over the 2017 and 2018 MLS regular seasons*
- 2018 MLS Cup winner
- 2018 Open Cup winner (if an MLS team wins)
- 2018 Canadian Championship winner (if Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver win)
*=This berth was originally designated for the 2017 MLS Cup winner. However, since that team, Toronto FC, may only qualify for the 2019 CCL as the winner of the 2018 Canadian Championship, the berth is re-assigned to the US-based team with the best aggregate record over the 2017 and 2018 MLS seasons.