An already tough road for Sporting Kansas City in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League will be a little more difficult, CONCACAF confirmed on Saturday.
The @MLS Cup between @ATLUTD and @TimbersFC will determine the pots for the #SCCL Draw on Monday. Who do you want your team playing against in the first round of the #SCCL2019? #LoveForOurGame pic.twitter.com/lS0NRA5KJK— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) December 1, 2018
The Champions League reformed their setup for 2019, eliminating a group stage and instead setting up a single-elimination tournament made up of sixteen teams: four from Mexico, four from the United States, one from Canada, and seven remaining champions from Central America and the Caribbean.
The sixteen teams are divided into two pots of eight, ranked by the CONCACAF Club Index. The first pot includes all four Mexican teams, three USA teams, and the Canadian team. The remaining USA team is put with the other seven teams in pot two. The draw on Monday will pair each team from Pot 1 with a team from Pot 2. The only restriction is that teams from the same country will not meet in the Round of 16.
Sporting Kansas City qualified for the Champions League by winning the 2017 US Open Cup. Therefore, as the least recent champion, they were put into the USA2 slot. The CONCACAF Club Index has shown that the USA2 slot has typically been the weakest, which is why they are in Pot 2. Had Sporting Kansas City advanced to the MLS Cup final and even won, they may have been re-seeded. However their loss to Portland on Thursday confirmed their lot for the Champions League.
This means Sporting Kansas City will either be drawn against a LIGA MX team or against the Canadian champion, Toronto FC, a significantly harder first round matchup than their MLS compatriots.
As shown in the tweet above, the United States’ slots are not confirmed yet. If Atlanta wins MLS Cup, the New York Red Bulls will get in because Atlanta already qualified as the team with the combined best record in 2017 and 2018. New York would instead qualify as the runner-up in that arena, while Atlanta would qualify as MLS Cup champion. Should Portland win the MLS Cup, Portland would go in as MLS Champions and Atlanta would stay in their current slot. Here’s how everyone has qualified:
The Champions League will be a two-leg, single elimination format starting in 2019. As the lower seed, Sporting Kansas City will host the first leg against either Toronto FC or a LIGA MX opponent and then go on the road for the second leg. Dates are still TBD for the Round of 16.
The last time Sporting KC played in the CONCACAF Champions League was in the 2016-17 edition, having qualified after winning the 2015 US Open Cup. They went out unimpressively in the group stage as Vancouver rolled their way into the bracket stage.
The draw will be held on Monday, Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. central time at Univision Studios in Miami.