November 13, 2019

A Champions League primer ahead of Atlanta United’s debut


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By Doug Robertson from The Atlanta Journal Constitution

In less than a week, Atlanta United will make its debut in the CONCACAF when it plays Herediano in on Feb. 21.

Here is a Q&A about the tournament to help those not familiar with the event understand its importance:

Q. Why is Atlanta United in this?

A. The team qualified by finishing with the most points from the 2017 and 2018 seasons and by winning the 2018 Cup.

Q. Are there any other MLS teams competing?

A. Toronto, Houston, the New York Red Bulls and Sporting KC.

Houston qualified by winning the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. This will be its fifth appearance in the Champions League.

Toronto qualified by winning the 2018 Canadian Championship. This will be its sixth appearance in the Champions League.

Because Atlanta United’s MLS Cup victory superseded its points total as a qualifying point, the Red Bulls qualified by having the second-most points in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. This will be its fifth appearance in the Champions League.

Sporting KC qualified by winning the 2017 U.S. Open Cup. This will be its fourth appearance in the Champions League.

Q. How did Herediano qualify?

A. It qualified as champion of the 2018 CONCACAF Tournament, which is a preliminary qualifying event. This will be its ninth appearance in the Champions League.

Q. What is the format of the tournament?

A. It starts with 16 teams playing two-legged, home-and-home rounds.

The quarterfinals are March 6 and 13.

The semifinals are April 3 and 10.

The final is April 24 and May 1.

Q. How old is the tournament?

A. It was first held in 1962.

Q. Why is it important?

A. It’s a chance to win a trophy as the best club team from Canada, United States, , Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Q. What does winning get the club?

A. A chance to appear in the Club World Cup and compete against the tournament winners from FIFA’s other regions: Africa, Asia, South America, Oceania and Europe.

Q. Has an MLS club ever won the CONCACAF Champions League?

A. D.C. United won in 1998 and L.A. Galaxy in 2000. However, that was in a previous format.

The format changed for the 2008-09 tournament. Since then, clubs from Mexico have won the past 10 titles. Three MLS clubs (Real Salt Lake in 2010-11, Montreal in 2014-15 and Toronto in 2018) have appeared in the finals.

Mexico’s Chivas is the defending champ.

The format was changed again for this year’s version.

Q. Which club has won the tournament the most times, regardless of format?

A. Mexico’s Club America has won it seven times. 

Clubs from Mexico have won the tournament 34 times and been runners-up 17 times.

Clubs from Costa Rica have won the tournament six times and five times been runners-up.

Herediano hasn’t won the tournament.

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