CCL 2012-13 Qualifiers: An American Two-For-One

Posted on October 4, 2011 2:00 am

The Los Angeles Galaxy are only scheduled to play one game on “Super Tuesday”; but they will have two shots at qualifying for the next Champions League.

Wait, what?

Now, before you start ranting about even more preferential treatment for the so-called Superclub (not to dissuade you from doing so; better yet, please direct your frustrations to this guy), I should point out that the Galaxy have earned their enviable position on the field. They still have some work to do, though, before they can reap the rewards of their season-long performance.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) night, two games will determine which club(s) will be the first to enter next season’s CONCACAF Champions League. First, at 8:00 p.m. (all times EST) the LA Galaxy will try to clinch first place in Major League Soccer when they visit the New York Red Bulls in regular-season play. Given that their last remaining challengers for the Supporter’s Shield, the Seattle Sounders, can only reach 66 points, and that the Galaxy are currently on 64, a victory will do the job. Obliging them will be the last thing on Hans Backe’s mind, of course: the Red Bulls are barely holding on to the last spot in the playoffs, with Portland, DC and Chicago breathing down their necks, so Thierry Henry and co. will take the field at Red Bull Arena with the sole intention of getting all three points. They already have the advantage in firepower: Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane are unavailable for the visitors.

As you can expect with a game of this level of hype magnitude, it will be readily available on television throughout the region. It will be broadcast live on TSN2 in Canada and on ESPN2 in the US, Mexico, all of Central America, the Dutch-speaking Caribbean and the Dominican Republic (the rest of the Caribbean can catch it on ESPN on delay).

If the Galaxy do not manage to wrap up a CCL spot, then the first team to do so will emerge from the US Open Cup Final, starting right after at 10:00 p.m. The Seattle Sounders will attempt to win three Lamar Hunt trophies in a row – the first “three-peat” for an MLS club in any competition, and the first in the Open Cup in 42 years – as they host four-time champion Chicago Fire in a one-off at CenturyLink Field. Stories involving the Sounders inevitably involve attendance, and this one is no different: over 33,000 tickets have been sold as of Monday, guaranteeing the biggest (recorded) crowd for a Final in the 97-year history of the tournament. The match will be shown on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes in the US; but it looks like Fox Sports Latin America passed on it, so I will be sure to put up a highlights video in the comments once it is available.

Whichever team wins will be assured of at least a spot in the preliminary round of the next CCL. What does this have to do with the Galaxy, you ask? As I mentioned before, LA and Seattle are the only teams left in the race for the Supporter’s Shield. That leaves two possible outcomes:

- The LA Galaxy win the Supporter’s Shield
- The Seattle Sounders win the Supporter’s Shield, and the LA Galaxy finish as runners-up

Here’s the rub: if the Sounders win the US Open Cup, then either the Galaxy will enter the CCL on their own merits (case 1), or the Sounders will grab two continental spots (case 2) and hand the lower one (USA4) down the regular-season table to the first team not yet qualified: the LA Galaxy. For the same reason, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas and everyone else with designs on third place in the regular season will also be pulling for Seattle to defend their championship, since an extra hand-me-down would be available if either the Galaxy or the Sounders make it to the MLS Cup Final. Hopefully the Fire brings a good number of fans for this game, where they will be up against a trophy-hungry team, a record crowd, and the interests of a third of the entire league.

CCL 2012-13 Qualifiers

1. Seattle Sounders [USA1, USA2, USA3 or USA4]
2. LA Galaxy [USA1, USA2, USA3 or USA4]

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