CCL 2013-14 Qualifiers: History vs. Novelty

Posted on August 8, 2012 9:02 pm

The Champions League has been on Kansas City’s mind all year.

When Graham Zusi, Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong got called up for the US national team’s friendly in Panama City, their club coach Peter Vermes remarked that the experience gained would serve Sporting KC well in future international competitions. And in the promotional video for their US Open Cup quarterfinal against the Dayton Dutch Lions, the players made specific reference to the CCL as a motivation for this particular domestic campaign.

After eliminating USL-Pro champions Orlando City, dismissing the Colorado Rapids, dropping Dayton and overcoming the Philadelphia Union, only one more hurdle remains between Kansas City and a long-awaited return to the continental stage (Superliga participation notwithstanding). It is by far the most daunting, however: in the US Open Cup Final, they will face an opponent that has simply forgotten how to lose.

The first qualifier for next season’s CONCACAF Champions League will be determined tonight at 9:00 p.m. EST on GOLTV, as Sporting KC play host to three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders. Besides dominating the tournament in recent years, the visiting Cascadians have contributed significantly to raising its profile among the US Soccer community. The war of words that Seattle’s ownership sparked with its DC counterpart over the latter winning the bid to host the 2009 Final galvanized Dave Kasper and co. into heavily promoting the event, resulting in an energetic crowd of over 17,000 bearing witness to Seattle’s first triumph as an MLS side. In the following years, the Sounders’ fanbase blew that figure out of the water, setting all-time attendance records for the US Open Cup Final as the team received and saw off the Columbus Crew in 2010 and the Chicago Fire in 2011.

One senses that the US Soccer Federation will be satisfied with either club occupying one of its berths in the next Champions League. Both clubs, from the ownership down, have made it clear that they consider it a privilege to qualify for the CCL, an honor to compete with champions from other countries and a worthwhile endeavor to make a name for themselves outside of their own backyard. Besides the trophy and the domestic glory on offer, both sides will be eager to ensure continental play next year as soon as possible. It should be noted that since 2007, not one single Open Cup runner-up has managed to qualify for the CCL by other means in the same season.

CCL 2013-14 Qualifiers

1. Sporting Kansas City [USA1, USA2, USA3 or USA4]

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