Are they in or are they out? Well, nobody seems to know for sure.
Earlier this year, MLS announced a format change for CONCACAF Champions League qualifying (if should be noted that the linked article was taken down at some point on Monday amid the controversy. The article was back up by Tuesday). Here’s an excerpt:
By winning the 2017 U.S. Open Cup, Sporting Kansas City became the first US-based team to qualify for the 2019 CCL, which will be contested in the spring of that year. They’ll be joined in the 2019 tournament by the 2017 MLS Cup winner and 2018 U.S. Open Cup and 2018 MLS Cup winners.
If a US-based club occupies more than one of those slots (for example, if Sporting KC also win MLS Cup) or the MLS Cup winners are Canadian, the next US-based club in line to qualify for the CCL is determined by the highest aggregate points over the 2017 and 2018 regular seasons.
Being a Canadian team, Toronto FC cannot qualify for the CCL by winning the MLS Cup this year. Instead, they must win the Canadian Championship for entry. That leaves New York City FC to potentially qualify for the tournament should they earn the most points over the course of both 2017 and 2018.
Easy enough, right? Not so fast.
On Monday, CONCACAF’s media service department announced that NYCFC had already qualified for the 2019 CCL — based only on the points they earned in 2017.
.@NYCFC qualifies for @TheChampions as the US-based @MLS club with the greatest number of 2017 regular season points and will occupy the slot assigned for the 2017 @MLS Cup Champion. MLS-Canadian clubs may only qualify via the Canadian Championship.— CONCACAF MEDIA (@CONCACAFMedia) December 11, 2017
The announcement quickly stirred up excitement for NYCFC fans across social media. That was until Nick Chávez — an NYCFC columnist — announced on Twitter that there was some infighting regarding as to whether or not NYCFC had actually qualified.
UPDATE: I'm hearing now that MLS League Office and CONCACAF Competitions are currently having "internal discussions" regarding NYCFC's CONCACAF Champions League qualification. There might even be some arguing going on. So, hold off on popping that sweet CCL Champagne, New York.— Nick Chávez (@NickChavezMLS) December 11, 2017
He would go on to say that following the confusion, U.S. Soccer would have to consult with MLS higher-ups as to whether or not New York City had actually qualified.
So, the latest I'm hearing is that US Soccer messed up and will now have to talk to MLS about the final decision on whether or not @NYCFC has done enough to qualify for the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League yet. So, we are all currently waiting on that decision. #Peak @NYCFCNation— Nick Chávez (@NickChavezMLS) December 11, 2017
Obviously, there is a clear breakdown in communication between U.S. Soccer and MLS. Either the rule changes announced by MLS were false, or someone at CONCACAF wasn’t given the memo. Either way, this is an embarrassing mix-up.
Going even further, Chris Magalee — a contributor to NYCFC Nation — reached out to MLS writer Sam Stejskal, the one who wrote the article detailing the new CCL format and qualification process. Stejskal also expressed uncertainty.
Yeah, unsure what's going on there. As far as I understood, if the 2017 MLS Cup champ was Canadian, that spot would go to aggregate points champ for '17 and '18. https://t.co/CWBAGXkfsb pic.twitter.com/WKvYzEReIc— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) December 11, 2017
As of now, everything is up in the air regarding the future of NYCFC in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League. It’s extremely unfortunate that both MLS and CONCACAF can’t seem to figure this out in a timely fashion. Mistakes obviously happen, but if this is simply the result of some miscommunication, one would have expected a swift and timely response from at least one of the involved parties.
The complete and utter silence as a this mess unfolds shows a complete misunderstanding of their own rules. And NYCFC supporters are now paying the price for this avoidable blunder. With little to no transparency coming from MLS, U.S. Soccer, and CONCACAF — none of whom have made an official statement on the mishap since the news broke Monday — the anxiety among the fan base is heating up to a fever pitch.