Advancing would give RSL crack at soccer's big boys

Published: Tuesday, April 26 2011 9:00 p.m. MDT

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.

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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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