Monday, December 1, 2008

MLS Cup Win Also Brings CONCACAF Champions League Berth

Overlooked in the Crew’s double championship season has been the fact that in addition to winning the MLS Cup and the Supporters Shield, the Crew has gained its second ever berth in the CONCACAF Champions League (formerly the CONCACAF Champions' Cup).

Beginning in July of next year, Columbus will compete in the premier club competition for the 40 countries that make up the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.

The winner of the 24-team tournament, which runs through April 2010, will gain CONCACAF's spot in the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup

Under the current rules, the United States’ top four club teams are admitted. The other three U.S. teams who have qualified are Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls and DC United. In the 46 years of the tournament, only two U.S. clubs have ever won it: DC United (1998) and Los Angeles Galaxy (1997 & 2000). The only other team to qualify so far for the 2009-10 tournament is Panama’s Arabe Unido.

Columbus’ only other CANCACAF bid came in 2003 by virtue of their 2002 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup victory. That year, the Crew was knocked out 6-2 on aggregate by Monarcas Morelia of Mexico.

In the 2009-10 competition, 16 clubs will compete in a two-leg preliminary round, with the eight winners advancing to the group stage. The other eight teams in the group stage are seeded directly by virtue of their finish in their domestic leagues the prior year, meaning Columbus will be seeded directly into the group stage. The group stage involves four groups of four with each team playing the others in its group in both home and away matches. The top two teams from each group move on to the knockout rounds, which consist of two-legged home and away series. The final also will be a two-legged home and away series.

This is going to be a great opportunity for Crew fans to see some premier clubs from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. El Luchador predicts a strong showing from the Crew. Columbus till I die!

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