CHICAGO (Wednesday, October 23, 2002) - U.S. Soccer’s allocation of four positions in the 2003 edition of the CONCACAF Champions Cup has been approved by CONCACAF, paving the way for the winner of the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship to earn an automatic berth in the event next year. The U.S Open Cup final between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the host Columbus Crew will be played this Thursday at Crew Stadium, marking a last-ditch in 2002 for the Crew to not only claim their first domestic championship, but also a place in the CONCACAF Champions Cup.
The game will be broadcast live on Thursday on Fox Sports World at 7 p.m. ET (and delayed on Fox Sports World Espanol). Fans can also follow the action on-line via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
In addition to the automatic berth for the winner of Thursday’s 2002 U.S. Open Cup final, three other Champions Cup positions will go to the winner of the 2002 MLS Cup, the 2002 MLS Cup runner-up and the winner of the 2002 Supporters’ Shield in MLS. With the Open Cup finalist Los Angeles Galaxy already earning a spot as both the champions of MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield, the San Jose Earthquakes will take their place as one of the four U.S. representatives in the tournament as the team with the second most points in the MLS regular season.
Should Los Angeles also qualify for the tournament via a third route as 2002 U.S. Open Cup champions, the fourth U.S. position will fall to the Dallas Burn (who had the third highest point total in MLS). The upstart New England Revolution qualified with their late run to the 2002 MLS Cup final, where they fell to L.A. 1-0 in sudden death overtime on Sunday.
The CONCACAF Champions Cup is a 16-team tournament that annually crowns the overall champion of the CONCACAF region covering North and Central America and the Caribbean. The tournament will be played as home-and-away legs from the round of 16 through to the 2003 final. Although exact tournament dates have yet to be finalized, a draw will take place this winter to place four U.S. teams, four Mexican teams, six Central American teams and two Caribbean teams into two brackets. At the draw, two U.S. and two Mexican teams will be placed in each bracket, being joined by three Central American and one Caribbean team each.