CONCACAF amends rules, gives CCL spot to Timbers

CONCACAFChampionsLeagueLogo1 (CONCACAF)

By DAN KARELL

In the last six days, Real Salt Lake lost the MLS Cup final, their head coach Jason Kreis, and now, a place in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

CONCACAF announced Friday that they had reviewed and accepted a request from Major League Soccer to give one of the four available slots to the Champions League from the United States to the best team in the conference opposite of the Supporters’ Shield winner instead of the loser of the MLS Cup final.

As such, finishing with the best record in the Western Conference, the Portland Timbers have been awarded a place in the 2014/2015 Champions League instead of RSL.┬áThe Timbers will join the New York Red Bulls (Supporters’ Shield winners), D.C. United (U.S. Open Cup champion) and Sporting Kansas City (MLS Cup champion) in next year’s competition.

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What do you think of this news? Agree with this decision? Feel bad for RSL? How does this change the Timbers’ offseason plans?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in CONCACAF Champions League, Featured, Major League Soccer, MLS- Portland Timbers, MLS- Real Salt Lake. Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to CONCACAF amends rules, gives CCL spot to Timbers

  1. Bean says:

    Seems legit.

    • bottlcaps says:

      No, It’s just to get an Eastern Conference team more chances to play in Concacaf. The Western Conference has all but dominated the MLS the last 3-4 years, Winning the more supporters Shield and MLS Cups and Only the US Open Cup left an opportunity to get an Eastern Conference Team aboard.

      • Shawn says:

        Huh? That spot stayed in the Western Conference. And last year, it would’ve went to an Eastern Conference team either way by either set of rules. All this does is reward a team for the Regular Season instead of a short (unsuccessful, since they lost the final) playoff run.

        And giving the regular season more meaning is what the fans have said they wanted all along. And it wasn’t the “Western Conference” dominating MLS. It was one team. And they aren’t all that now.

        • NC Jeff says:

          They did not lose the final … officially, it was a tie, with the Cup awarded based on a 10rd. PKSO.

          It just sounds like something FIFA would do … making decisions AFTER all the results are in. Obviously, I really don’t agree with making it effective immediately … and I don’t even have a rooting interest either way.

          • RAMONE says:

            Actually the decision was made by MLS in February 2013 and shared with all of the clubs before the season was made. Unfortunately CONCACAF runs on a different schedule so didn’t approve MLS’ request until today. It has been rather public knowledge for weeks if not months now that this was the likely outcome. I get it that fans or causal observers might have missed this news but every club and MLS knew that it was very likely that the MLS cup runner up spot would mean nothing and the conference winners, MLS cup winner and USOC cup winner would be the most important.

            I will grant you that the timing unfortunately allows for the potential appearance of impropriety, but I have been waiting to hear about this decision for weeks expecting that Portland, not Salt Lake was going to take the last spot based on winning the West in October. What really would have been shocking is CONCACAF denying the request placed MLS and USSF before the season started since such changes are generally rubber stamped for every other league.

            • Chris says:

              The point you’re missing is that the MLS Cup runner up IS the champion in its conference, because the conference championship is determined in the semifinals of the playoffs, not by the regular season standings. And since it’s a “Champions League,” and the Timbers didn’t win squat this year in terms of a championship while RSL mopped the floor with Timbers all season and are the Western Conference Champions, this decision is completely nonsensical unless MLS scraps the playoffs entirely.

              • RAMONE says:

                This I cannot disagree with as it is fact. Stupid, but fact.

                MLS seems to finally be coming around to realizing that it is harder to win a conference or a supporters shield than it is to get the the MLS cup final (given the number of fluky things that can happen in a parity league in a tournament/playoffs). Add the unbalanced schedule issues in (the West teams played a dramatically higher strength of schedule than the East teams this year – if they had been equal chances are good that a West team would have won the SS) and this change makes a lot of sense. Wouldn’t be surprised if in the next few years MLS formalizes that West and East Champions are regular season champions but also recognizes a West and East playoff champ (by letting them play in the MLS Cup Final).

  2. Hogatroge says:

    This is ridiculous. If anyone should have been stripped, it should have been DC (sorry, DC)!

    You should have to have at least a 0.500 record to go the the CCL, a la college football bowl games. I realize draws make that math fuzzy in some cases, but not this one.

    Ridiculous.

    • downintexas says:

      agreed but a team like DC performance last year winning was more fluke than norm

    • beto says:

      teams that won things this year:
      SKC – MLS Cup
      DC United – US Open Cup
      NYRB – Supporters Shield & Eastern Conference
      Portland – Western Conference

      what was it that RSL was a champion of this year?…

      champion of choke shouldn’t cut it.

      • Vinny Parmagiana says:

        Bitter and delusional…

      • Otis says:

        Actually, in MLS world, RSL lifted the western conference trophy after beating Portland over two legs. Portland had more points, but in the playoff system RSL was western conference champions.

        • Sam U El says:

          Oddly enough MLS disagrees with you on that. They look at Playoffs and regular season differently. Which is why they requested the change.

      • Chris says:

        RSL won the Western Conference Championship and Timbers didn’t win squat, because it’s determined in the playoffs, not by regular season finish, according to MLS’s own structure. Do some research.

    • Kosh says:

      Why should DC not be there? I mean it is call the CHAMPIONS league and last I checked they were in fact champions. Yeah it was the OC and you can thumb your nose at it all you want but it was a title, a piece of silverware and we won it and all the perks that come with it. We won it on RSL’s grounds and yet you think RSL is more deserving? Strange, no?

      • Chris says:

        RSL deserve in on the basis that they are the Western Conference Champions, as determined by their manhandling of Timbers in the playoffs. DC (fluke though it may be) collected hardware in the OC Final and therefore get a spot, it’s Timbers who didn’t win anything and don’t belong in a Champions League.

    • RAMONE says:

      What stripping? CONCACAF simply approved the MLS/USSF request for change made prior to the start of the 2013 MLS season that every club knew about.

      Did RSL or some other entity lead its fans to believe that they were in the CCL? If so that is where your frustration should lie. For the rest of us who were paying attention we have known for weeks/months that among the items on the the December 13th CONCACAF meeting table was the request for change that was made prior to the 2013 season and approved by US based MLS clubs.

      • Chris says:

        Whether or not the teams knew at the beginning of the season, I think you’d be hard pressed to argue this was common knowledge among fans until a few weeks ago that it was even being considered. And THAT is the problem – they let the fans believe there was one set of qualifying rules until we were already in the playoffs, and then said “oh wait, just kidding, this might change…” MLS alienates fans by this kind of lack of transparency.

        • RAMONE says:

          Again, you are correct. Why they kept this secret is beyond me. It did become public knowledge just as the playoffs started and I don’t think it influenced the outcome.

    • bryan says:

      DC United won a cup, so no, it shouldn’t be them…

    • Chris says:

      I agree this is ridiculous, however I dispute your logic for why it is ridiculous.

      This is not college football, and part of the point of a tournament like US Open Cup is that the way it is structured, a weaker team has more of a chance of winning it relative to a league season. DC won the US Open Cup this year, fluke or not, and are therefore in.

      CONCACAF Champions League is supposed to be a league made up of teams who won something (domestic league, domestic cup tournament like US Open Cup or Canadian Cup, etc.), so by definition, the Timbers didn’t win anything and don’t belong, since MLS determines conference champions in the playoffs (i.e. SKC and RSL, not PTFC and RBNY). Dropping a team that won hardware (Western Conference Championship) for one that won nothing is ridiculous and counterintuitive, unless MLS also drops its playoff system.

  3. Travis says:

    What a joke, if you want to change this rule fine but it needs to be for the next year. Changing rules after the fact is garbage

    • wandmdave says:

      I imagine this proposal was submitted a while ago and CONCACAF just now ruled on it. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

      • fatbarry says:

        The proposal came from USSF before the start of the MLS season. Teams have known about it all along. Took this long for CONCACAF to finally accept it.

        RSL had their chances. Including that one time. At home. Against DC.

        • Lorenzo says:

          I think this is vital information to put in the article.

          • RAMONE says:

            There have been multiple articles about this previously. Yes, the internet would not have been filled up with an extra sentence which said “The change grants the request of MLS and USSF which was agreed upon and known to all clubs before the start of the 2013 season”.

            That said, it is hilarious to watch so many get their knickers in a twist due to assumptions and ignorance.

            Popcorn!

            • Vinny Parmagiana says:

              relax mr.allcaps

            • Chris says:

              Multiple articles only in the last several weeks. Fans didn’t know this was even being considered until the playoffs were already underway. THAT is why it smacks of unfairness (along with the fact you’re taking a team who actually is the Western Conference Champion this year and replacing them with a team that technically won nothing in a league that is by definition supposed to be made up of teams that won some kind of trophy).

              • RAMONE says:

                Again I agree. More transparency is needed. However would fans knowing that RSL probably had to win the MLS cup final to go to the CCL really have changed the outcome? I doubt it. Yes it might have tempered their disappointment but many still would have complained that it was unfair that this was the year (and even if it had been delayed a year, whomever loses the MLS cup next year if they have not already secured a spot would complain too). Change is difficult for those who lose.

          • scottishkyle says:

            It is puzzling that it was not mentioned in the article.

      • Snaves says:

        You are correct. Sources seem to say that MLS Clubs voted and were made aware of the decision prior to the beginning of this season. Doesn’t make it sting any less for RSL. Lose two Cups, then lose a spot in the CL to a team you didn’t lose to all season? Granted, I agree with the decision. I actually don’t think the Open Cup or MLS Cup winner should really make it in either. Make it the top 4 teams after the regular season, two from each conference. The playoffs only indicate which team is peaking at the right time, doesn’t have key injuries, who has home advantage, who had easier travel schedule, etc.

        • sciroccer says:

          I like that idea.

        • Anthony says:

          The key issue is that the schedule is not balanced (since 2012). Therefore, the teams are not playing each other an equal number of times. Thus leaving a few teams to play a more difficult schedule than others.

          If anything, I would like it the way the proposed it.
          - Supporters Shield Winner: Best record overall, therefore, arguably, the best team without taking into account the unbalanced schedule
          - Supporters Shield Runner Up
          - US Open Cup
          - MLS Cup

        • Northzax says:

          Well two things: first, giving a spot to the Open Cup gives other, non-mls teams a shot. Only fair, a closed loop shouldn’t rule everyone else out.

          Second: mls cup is the league’s championship trophy. So there are now two spots determined by season record, and two by tournaments. Seems reasonable. Also, the replacement team in case a spot is opened (a Canadian team winning any of the three available) is the next us team based on regular season record.

        • RAMONE says:

          Meh. RSL lost the Western Conference to Portland because they couldn’t take care of business elsewhere.

          Portland didn’t lose to Kansas City (road win), DC United (road win) or RBNY (home draw) all season … so having a certain team’s number is hardly a criteria for season accomplishment.

        • RAMONE says:

          And how does peaking in late November 2013 affect how the team will be playing in CONCACAF pool play in August 2014 or knockout play in March 2015? It has no bearing.

          I give RSL all the credit in the world. They had Portland’s number in 2013 … simply put they matched up really well strength to weakness and they executed. Great job. But having one team’s number does not make a champion. Given Portland’s severe struggles with RSL it makes it even more impressive that they beat them out on points for the Western Conference #1 seed.

        • Chris says:

          I would agree with you if MLS switched to a single table with a balanced schedule. As the league is currently structured, that idea is worse than how things have been.

      • Kejsare says:

        RSL had three chances at this apple:

        1) US Open Cup run with all home games, losing to a record worst DC United
        2) Tying the Timbers late in the season, a win would’ve given them the WC spot
        3) Losing to SKC in the MLS Cup Final

        • Chris says:

          Portland didn’t even get close to the Open Cup avenue (because RSL mopped the floor with them), didn’t get results even AT HOME against RSL in the regular season, and got dumped out of the playoffs by RSL, losing both their shot at MLS Cup Final AND the Western Conference Championship. But you really think they belong in the Champions League, even though they didn’t win any hardware this year and never made it to a single championship game?

      • Travis says:

        That makes it slightly better, still would prefer it to be enacted next year though.

      • Sam U El says:

        You are correct.

    • Increase says:

      The timing is truly terrible.

      • Shawn says:

        Only because ConCaCaf took all season to rule on something MLS and the owners agreed to before the season.

  4. wandmdave says:

    I like it. Playoffs are a crap shoot whereas best record in the conference is much less likely to be a fluke. Also sets things up nicely for the conferences to not play each other until the playoffs in the future so you can go well past 20 teams and still play everyone on your schedule home and away.

  5. prizby says:

    I will find it very humourous if Portland has an away match on August 6th at some Central American team.

  6. PaoloD says:

    I just want to clarify one thing…it’s not necessarily who came in 2nd in the supporters shield table. It’s whoever was first in the other conference that didn’t win the shield?

    So if the top 3 teams all were in the Eastern Conference, teams #2 & #3 would get skipped for team #4 who happens to be #1 in the West?

    • Snaves says:

      Yes. To account for the fact that usually the conferences are imbalanced in terms of quality, and teams play far more games within their conference than outside of it. If all teams simply played each other twice in the season, then it would simply be the top 4 finishers.

      • RAMONE says:

        Exactly. Because you play 70% of your schedule against your conference, if the weakest 4-5 teams in one conference are significantly worse than their counterparts in the other conference, it gives the good teams in the weaker conference an easier time to accumulate more points. The bad teams in the East were an AVERAGE of 6.05 points (or 2 full wins) worse than the bad teams in the West. This means the top West teams had significantly more competition for points and a much stronger schedule than the top teams in the East.

        If we went back to a balanced schedule the point would be moot (then you could just give to top 2 points earners regardless of conference), but that is never going to happen again as we hurtle to 21 teams and beyond.

  7. irishapple21 says:

    This is great news! Here’s another tournament that the Portland Timbers can fail to win!

  8. Ian says:

    Love the rule change. Hate, hate, hate the ex post facto manor in which CONCACAF enacted the change. I’m not an RSL fan, but this is a truly amateur way of conducting business. Shame on CONCACAF.

    • solles says:

      shame on MLS too in a way though, had they been more out front on making sure this new policy was understood by fans at the beginning of the season, when they told the clubs. The first mention I am aware of came on major league soccer soccer .com on november, juuuust a couple of months after the start of the season. I get that CONCACAF was dragging its feet but shouldnt MLS have anticipated just a little more here?

    • Brian says:

      The problem is with the American calendar. Concacaf used this meeting to finalize the rules for the 2014 tournament. It isn’t their fault MLS and USSF already completed qualification.

  9. sciroccer says:

    God!!! Just end it now, Hansen screws us then CCL screws us, RSL is just a lost cause now. No MLS $$$$ from me anymore. Straight back to 2006 in a week! I wouildnt be surprised if Hansen sold the team to St. Louis right now

    • Anthony says:

      Hansen had a contract on the table for Kreis a long time ago. Kreis was just ready to leave.

    • Neruda says:

      Armeggedon is upon us and it’s all because of Hansen! Wait RSL is still a good team with a strong group of vets and younger players. Lagerway will hire a good coach that is committed to the RSL way.

      Hansen has to stay out of the way of the soccer decisions which is his approach. He says he’s willing to get an impact player so let’s see if he gives lagerway the green light to do it? If he doesn’t get a third dp then I’ll join the “were back to 2006″ drumbeat.

  10. Matt says:

    Especially crappy for RSL is that they also will lose the extra salary-cap space/allocation money that comes from MLS for teams with a CCL spot. This is a real thing, right?

    Good rule change, just needed to be for next year not the one that already finished.

    • Neruda says:

      The money is the worst part for RSL. Portland will do well in ccl. It’s better for RSL to concentrate on league play and winning supporters shield to get back to MLS cup.

    • Joamiq says:

      They’re not “losing” anything, since this change has been known since the start of the season.

  11. solles says:

    Logical and good move, this way everyone who represents the US in the Champions League will actually have to be a champion of something to get in!

  12. Daekor says:

    I disagree with what MLS requested. I think that fourth spot should go to a lower-division team since there is not any promotion and relegation. Perhaps even a tournament like the J. Paint Trophy from England or just one single qualification game between the champion of NASL and USL Pro. Since there is no pro/relegation in place, there must be some type of concession made. Of course, this is under the assumption those teams want to participate in CCL, but I’m pretty sure the NASL teams would definitely want to participate.

    • Brian says:

      The lower division teams have a shot through the US Open cup. If they cannot beat MLS teams they won’t get in.

  13. fred says:

    Contrary to what everyone has posted here, I think this might be just what RSL needs to get over the hump. Talk about a chip on your shoulder! If the right coach is hired he can totally use that to motivate the team. I’m a Galaxy supporter but have always admired RSL and I’m sure many TFC, chivas, RBNY (until this past year) supporters would take RSL’s history (chokes and all) in a heartbeat! Hey the Galaxy has lost as many MLS Cups as it’s won! So RSL fans don’t need to start this “like in 2006″ stuff just yet, when they still have a great team for 2014 and beyond.

  14. Andy says:

    It should be the team with the 2nd best record, regardless of “Conference”.

    Best league record
    *2nd best league record
    MLS Cup winner (or runner up, or 3rd best league record)
    US Open Cup winner (or runner up, or 3rd best league record, or 4th best league record)

    • nate says:

      This would only make sense if the schedules were balanced. As it stands, teams in the conference with more good teams (or, more importantly, fewer bad teams) can’t rack up the points as easily. It becomes unfair to compare point totals across conferences. The solution is to award the top team in each conference. Frankly, I’m stunned that MLS is actually getting this right.

    • Chris says:

      No, it’s called the CONCACAF Champions League, meaning by definition it should be some kind of champion. MLS Cup Champion, US Open Cup Champion, and Canadian Cup Champion are not in question, but Eastern and Western Conference Champions are decided in the playoff brackets, not by the regular season finishes, so this decision is in opposition to both the defining feature of a “champions league” and also MLS’ own constant reinforcement of the importance of the playoffs. If regular season results outweigh playoffs, then don’t have playoffs and award the cup based on a single-table system. If playoffs are so important to MLS, and you award the conference championship based on the teams that advance from each conference to the MLS Cup Final through the playoffs, then asking for this change is counterintuitive and undermines the legitimacy of the entire playoff structure.

  15. RB says:

    Good, logical change, despite RSL fans not liking it.

  16. Joamiq says:

    Good change.