NEW YORK - The LA Galaxy's 1-0 victory over Houston for the MLS Cup Sunday night completed U.S. qualifying for next year's CONCACAF Champions League, with the Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake joining the championship final pair in the 24-team field.
The Galaxy's victory - secured with Landon Donovan's 72nd-minute goal at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California - confirmed Los Angeles' return to the Champions League for a third straight year. It already had secured its place in the 2012-13 Group Stage by winning the Supporters' Shield with the best regular season record in Major League Soccer.
Since the Galaxy won both titles, the second Group Stage berth was awarded to Seattle, the team with the second-best regular season record. The Sounders were assured of at least a Preliminary Round berth by having won the U.S. Open Cup in October.
The two Preliminary Round berths, therefore, went to Houston as the MLS Cup final runner-up along with Salt Lake, which had the third-best regular season record.
The Galaxy and Sounders have qualified for this season's Champions League quarterfinals, with Los Angeles set to play fellow MLS side and Canadian club Toronto FC, while Seattle will play against Santos Laguna of Mexico in March.
Both Los Angeles and Seattle have qualified for a third straight year, while Real Salt Lake will return for the first time since reaching the final against Monterrey in April.
Houston, which reached the quarterfinals in the inaugural Champions League in 2008-09, will play in the Champions League for a third time, but the first in three seasons.