SANDY — There's more than just a trophy at stake tonight at Rio Tinto Stadium.
There's an opportunity to potentially meet one of the big boys — most notably, the European champion.
The winner of tonight's Champions League finale between Real Salt Lake and Monterrey qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan this Dec. 8-18.
The tournament features six continental confederation winners (North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceanic) and the host country champion.
"It would be a magnificent accomplishment and would put this franchise in a different realm," said RSL president Bill Manning.
Nick Rimando said playing in the tournament, "would mean the world."
One team has already qualified for the tournament, Auckland City. The New Zealand club won the Oceanic championship earlier this month. Either Real Salt Lake or Monterrey will become the second team to punch its ticket to the prestigious tourney tonight.
The UEFA Champions League is down to four teams (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Schalke 04), and its champion will be crowned in May. The South American champion will be determined in June and then the Asian and African champion won't be determined until November.
The FIFA Club World Cup was founded in 2000, and no MLS team has ever participated in the competition. There was a four-year gap after the 2000 tournament, but its been held annually since 2005 in either Japan or the United Arab Emirates.
The total purse for the tournament is around $17 million, with the winner taking home $5 million.
Pachuca, last year's CONCACAF Champions League champion, lost in the quarterfinals of the FIFA Club World Cup to African champion TP Mazembe of Congo.
The Oceanic champion and host champion start the tournament this December with a play-in game. The Africa, Asia and North America champion then join in the quarterfinals. The Europe and South America champs get byes into the semifinals.
"In American sports you rarely play anybody from around the world or a different region, and if you do it certainly doesn't mean anything. This means a ton to us as a club and to our league and to American soccer in general," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
CONCACAF Champions Cup
Year Club Country
1962 Guadalajara Mexico
1963 Racing Club Haiti
1967 Alianza El Salvador
1968 Toluca Mexico
1969 Cruz Azul Mexico
1970 Cruz Azul Mexico
1971 Cruz Azul Mexico
1972 Olimpia Honduras
1973 Transvaal Suriname
1974 Municipal Guatemala
1975 Atletico Espanol Mexico
1976 Aguila El Salvador
1977 Club America Mexico
1979 F.A.S. El Salvador
1980 Pumas UNAM Mexico
1981 Transvaal Suriname
1982 Pumas UNAM Mexico
1983 Atlante Mexico
1984 Violette Haiti
1985 Defence Force Trin. & Tab.
1986 Alajuelense Costa Rica
1987 Club America Mexico
1988 Olimpia Honduras
1989 Pumas UNAM Mexico
1990 Club America Mexico
1991 Puebla Mexico
1992 Club America Mexico
1993 Saprissa Costa Rica
1994 Cartagines Costa Rica
1995 Saprissa Costa Rica
1996 Cruz Azul Mexico
Format changed to single-elimination tournament hosted in the United States
1997 Cruz Azul Mexico
1998 D.C. United United States
1999 Necexa Mexico
2000 L.A. Galaxy United States
Format changed to 3 rounds home & home
2002 Pachuca Mexico
2003 Toluca Mexico
2004 Alajuelense Costa Rica
2005 Saprissa Costa Rica
2006 Club America Mexico
2007 Pachuca Mexico
2008 Pachuca Mexico
Format changed to Champions League
2009 Atlante Mexico
2010 Pachuca Mexico
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