Concacaf, here they come.
Los Angeles Football Club officially clinched the Western Conference regular-season title on Wednesday, despite not being in action themselves, and in the course of winning the West, LAFC have officially clinched a spot in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League.
The CCL is a 16-team knockout competition, the top regional club competition in the area. 2020’s edition will be the third in the current format, where Mexican, American and Canadian teams will be joined by the Caribbean Club Championship title holders (which is Jamaica’s Portmore United), plus the top six teams from the 2019 Concacaf League, effectively a qualifying tournament between Central American teams. Teams will play home-and-away series, with aggregate goals determining the winner that moves on in the competition.
The winner of the CCL will participate in the Club World Cup, against the UEFA Champions League winners, Copa Libertadores winners, and winners of the other regional club competitions around the world.
It’s worth noting that CCL is a white whale for MLS, as they have never won the Champions League. Three teams — Real Salt Lake, the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC — have reached the final, but no team from MLS has yet to win the whole thing.
CCL will take place beginning in February, and MLS has moved the season earlier for 2020, perhaps in part to help CCL teams get into form a bit faster and improve their prospects. LAFC will likely start the MLS campaign just before Champions League begins, but it means it will be a busy start to the season overall for them.
LAFC are guaranteed their Champions League slot, winning it at least as the top team in their conference, although they are likely to ultimately qualify as Supporters’ Shield winners. For now, they’re joined in the competition by Atlanta United, which won the 2019 U.S. Open Cup, and Liga MX titans Club América, UANL Tigres, Cruz Azul and Club León, and the aforementioned Portmore United. Canada’s representative will either be Toronto or Montreal, depending on which of those teams wins the 2019 Canadian Championship.
Interestingly, LAFC clinched their CCL ticket because Minnesota United lost on Wednesday, to the Houston Dynamo. Former LAFC forward Christian Ramirez scored the insurance tally in the 2-0 win, and had a cheeky tweet after LAFC sent out a celebration of the top of the west clinching.
All in all, this is good news for LAFC. They want to be a big club, and big clubs play in competitions like this. They will have a chance to be the first MLS team to win it, too, which is an exciting proposition. That said, the road isn’t easy, and many a team has found a CCL campaign effectively derail their entire MLS season. This is awesome to see, but LAFC will need excellent planning and some good luck to make waves in CCL and MLS alike in 2020. Best of luck!
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