12/8/2008 – NEW YORK – The field for next season’s CONCACAF Champions League continues to fill with the addition of Toluca and the return of Cruz Azul, bringing to nearly a third the number of places already claimed.
Toluca and Cruz Azul advanced to the Mexican Apertura Liguilla finals with weekend aggregate victories over Santos and Atlante, assuring themselves of a place in next year’s 24-team field.
The winner between Cruz Azul and Toluca will receive a berth in the Group Stage while the loser is guaranteed a spot in the two-leg Preliminary Round. Cruz Azul is one of four Mexican teams to have clinched a quarterfinal berth in this season’s Champions League.
Mexico’s remaining two berths in next season’s Champions League will be determined in the Clausura championship.
Toluca and Cruz Azul join the four teams from the United States: the Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls and D.C. United and Panama’s Urabe Unido.
Honduras is down to Real Espana and Marathon for the first of its two berths. Marathon, which like Cruz Azul and the Dynamo, have advanced to the knockout phase of this year’s Champions League, won the first leg of the Honduran Apertura final 1:0 will play at Real España on December 13 in the second leg to decide the berth.
The second berth will be decided in the Clausura.
Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala have reached the semifinals of their season, leaving four teams in each country vying for the first of two berths per nation.
Besides the four berths granted to both Mexico and the United States, the Caribbean will get three berths (determined in a playoff tournament), Canada will receive one (also decided in a tournament) and Central America clubs will fill the other 12 places.
Five of Central America’s teams will be determined with the Apertura winners in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. Five more will be determined with the Clausura winners along with one team each from Nicaragua and Belize.