The Colorado Rapids' first MLS Cup last season did a bit more than just make the footballing population of Colorado feel much better about themselves and end 15 years of painfully bad play at Mile High Stadium, Invesco Field and Dick's Sporting Goods Park. It also earned the Rapids their first ever berth in the CONCACAF Champions League for 2011-2012, the highest competition other than the elusive Club World Cup that an MLS team can get into.
The CONCACAF Champions League is a fairly new competition, replacing the CONCACAF Champions Cup that had persisted since 1962, long before MLS first formed. Two MLS teams won the competition back when it was the CCC, with DC United winning the 1998 cup and the Los Angeles Galaxy taking the 2000 competition. After 2008, the competition was changed from a simple knockout tournament to a championship tournament more resembling the UEFA Champions League, the European counterpart to the CCL. In the new format, several new teams from the region from countries like Panama and the Caribbean Islands have been added.
With the added amount of teams, a group stage can be held with the teams split into groups of four, acting as sort of miniature leagues with the top two point-getting teams in each group moving onto the knockout stages. After that it turns into your standard knockout tourney with the top squads in every group facing off in two legged stages until the finalists have been determined, at which point a final two legged match with away goals active will take place to determine the champion.
This season's CCL recently ended when Real Salt Lake blew a 2-2 aggregate with away goals active at home against Mexican side Monterrey. The unfortunate loss meant that there has still been no MLS side to win the newly reformatted CCL tournament, and still no MLS representatives at the Club World Cup. Mexico is far and away the best country historically with 12 sides winning the CCC and CCL, including the last six in a row. The country as a whole have won 27 of the 45 total cup competitions since 1962.
Along with Colorado, the MLS sides that will be included in this year's CCL competition include MLS Cup runners up FC Dallas, the Open Cup winning Seattle Sounders, the Supporters Shield winning Los Angeles Galaxy and either Vancouver Whitecaps or Toronto FC, depending on who wins the Canadian Cup. The draw for the group stages will be held today at 9 AM Mountain Time, so we'll very soon know which teams the Rapids will face in the early stages of CCL this fall and next spring.