• Tuesday May 26, 2009

    Three more teams claim places in Champions League field

    NEW YORK - Three more teams joined the field for next season's CONCACAF Champions League, with Pachuca and Pumas reaching the Mexican Clausura finals to qualify, and Chalatenango claiming El Salvador's second berth by finishing with the second most points over the Central American league's two seasons.

    If Real Esteli's stadium meets CONCACAF standards and is approved later this week, only four places will remain unclaimed in the 24-team field for the tournament which begins with the first leg of the Preliminary Round on July 28.

    Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama each have one berth open as well as Canada, which last week reached the midpoint of its six-round championship tournament between the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps. Costa Rica's second berth was to be decided Tuesday night in the second leg of that country's final between Herediano and Liberia.

    Pachuca advanced past Indios 4-3 on aggregate in their Mexican Clausura semifinal while Pumas reached the two-leg championship after drawing with Puebla on aggregate but advancing due a better regular-season record. Pumas joins Cruz Azul as the two Mexican returnees from the inaugural Champions League.

    While only a handful of berths are undecided, many of the seedings for the Champions League have yet to be determined. Toluca already has earned one of Mexico's places in the Group Stage as the Apertura champion and will be accompanied by the winner between Pachuca and Pumas.

    Major League Soccer champion Columbus will enter along with the Houston Dynamo as the United States' two qualifiers to the Group Stage, while El Salvador's Metapan and Honduras' Marathon also have clinched places in the 16-team league phase.

    Besides the Mexican berth, Costa Rica and Guatemala also have yet to determine which teams will go directly to the Group Stage and which will be required to enter the Preliminary Round.

    The Preliminary Round will be contested in a two-leg format between 16 teams, with the winners on aggregate joining the eight seeded sides for the Group Stage -- which will begin August 18.

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