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Real Salt Lake: Champions League slips away from RSL

Published December 13, 2013 6:41 pm

Soccer • CONCACAF amends qualification process for tournament.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The hits just keep on coming.

Less than a week after Real Salt Lake lost in the longest penalty-kick shootout in Major League Soccer postseason history and three days after coach Jason Kreis bolted for the bright lights of New York City FC, a CONCACAF Champions League berth slipped away Friday.

The CONCACAF Executive Committee reviewed and approved U.S. Soccer's request to amend the qualification process for the four spots allotted to MLS for future CONCACAF Champions League tournaments.

Qualifying for Champions League play will now feature the regular-season winner of the conference opposite the MLS Supporters' Shield winner, along with winner of the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters' Shield winner and victor of the MLS Cup final. Previously, both teams in the MLS Cup final were awarded two sports in CONCACAF Champions League play.

Which means that Real Salt Lake is out of the fray, and the Portland Timbers are in.

RSL finished with 56 regular-season points, one point behind the Western Conference champion Timbers, a side RSL topped in the Western Conference final 5-2 on goal aggregate. In six competitions against Portland in 2013, RSL went 4-0-2.

"Achievement in the MLS regular season is important," said Nelson Rodriguez, MLS executive vice president for competition, technical and game operations on MLSSoccer.com. "Awarding a spot to the points leader from both conferences is a worthy reward and confers greater importance on regular season matches."

The news is particularly merciless for RSL and its supporters, considering how close the club was to qualifying for the tournament it nearly won in April 2011, losing 1-0 to Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League final. Even more so as RSL lost nearly every chance it had to qualify.

RSL lost the U.S. Open Cup final to D.C. United 1-0 on Oct. 1 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Just over two months later, RSL lost in a penalty-kick shootout to Sporting Kansas City in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7.

For that reason, the team is not complaining about the qualification change.

"Despite the confusing communication, notification & ratification processes, RSL had ample opportunity to not rest hopes on a technicality," team officials said in a statement on Twitter..

The teams representing MLS in next year's CONCACAF Champions League tournament will be the Sporting Kansas City, New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and Portland Timbers.

ckamrani@sltrib.com

Twitter: @chriskamrani Champions League entry

New qualifications for four CONCACAF spots:

• MLS Cup winner

• Supporters' Shield winner (team with best regular-season record)

• Winner of the conference opposite the MLS Supporters' Shield winner.

• U.S. Open Cup winner.

 

Previous qualifications:

• MLS Cup winner

• Supporters' Shield winner (team with best regular-season record)

• MLS Cup runner-up

• U.S. Open Cup winner