After a year's absence, Real Salt Lake will return to the CONCACAF Champions League next summer thanks to the LA Galaxy's 2-1 win (3-1 aggregate) over the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night.
With LA already earning a spot in the 2012-13 edition of the tournament thanks to their 2011 Supporters' Shield, that opened a side door to qualification for RSL.
If the Claret-and-Cobalt win in Sunday's Western Conference Championship, they advance to the CCL as an MLS Cup finalist. But even if they lose, they are guaranteed a berth thanks to a duplicate spot going to the next-highest finisher in regular-season league play that has not already clinched a spot.
Seattle would have claimed that berth by virtue of their second-place finish in the Shield race, but are already qualified thanks to their third straight US Open Cup title. That means the slot drops to RSL, the regular season's third-place finisher.
Sunday's Western final will take place at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., at 9 pm ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com, TSN2).
This marks the second time in three seasons that RSL have earned one of the four spots allotted to US clubs in the Champions League. In the 2010-11 version, they advanced courtesy of their 2009 MLS Cup title, and made it all the way to the CCL finals before being upended by Monterrey.
Welcome to the RSL Cup blog
I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.