SEATTLE - Real Salt Lake will join the Columbus Crew in the Group Stage of next season's CONCACAF Champions League, earning the second spot in the main phase of the continental club championship with its victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup final.
Sunday's 5-4 victory on penalties after a 1-1 draw marked the first time in the 14-year history of Major League Soccer that a team with a losing record in the MLS regular season has won the title. The Galaxy will play in the Preliminary Round along with the Seattle Sounders, which clinched its berth in the Champions League with a 2-1 victory September 2 against D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup.
Columbus, which will face Toluca in the quarterfinals of the this season's Champions League in March, claimed its spot in next year's Group Stage by finishing with the best record in the MLS regular season.
Twenty berths remain to be decided for the 2010-2011 Champions League, six in the Group Stage. Mexico will determine its first two entrants with the conclusion of the Apertura Liguilla in December.
The winners of the autumn tournaments in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama will be assured of at least Preliminary Round berths with the remainder of the spots to be chosen early next year.
Real Salt Lake, in its fifth year of existence, is only the second expansion team to win the MLS Cup and will be the ninth different team from the U.S. league to play in the Champions League since its inception.