As annoying as it is to see any team not named the Philadelphia Union win the U.S. Open Cup, Atlanta United’s 2-1 win over Minnesota United in Tuesday’s final opens an additional opportunity for the Union to qualify for the Concacaf Champions League in 2020.
In addition to the OpenCup winner, qualification spots are given to U.S.-based teams that win MLS Cup and the two conference winners. If a Canadian team occupies one of those three slots or a U.S. team occupies more than one, the spot then goes to the team with the best regular season record that hasn’t already qualified.
Canadian MLS teams can only qualify via the Canada Championship, which will be decided this year between Toronto FC and Montreal Impact over two legs September 18 and 25. A Canadian Premier League team also now has a pathway to qualification through the Concacaf League.
What this means is that should Atlanta United win the Eastern Conference or win MLS Cup, it will open up a spot or two for the teams with the best regular season record that hasn’t qualified. In other words, the Union could not win the Eastern Conference but still qualify for Champions League by finishing third in the Supporters’ Shield race, which is where they currently sit.
Atlanta winning the Eastern Conference and MLS Cup would mean that the third and fourth place team in the Supporters’ Shield race could potentially both qualify.
Winning MLS Cup is the ultimate goal and the preferred way for the Union to finally qualify for Champions League, but the possibility of them qualifying by season’s end is one silver lining in Atlanta winning their third trophy over the past nine months.