When people think of Matias Almeyda, one of the first images they think of is him lifting the Concacaf Champions League trophy with Chivas in 2018.
Almeyda has said on numerous occasions that he believes qualifying for and competing in Champions League is one of his biggest goals during his time in San Jose. The annual competition to name the champion of North America, Central America and the Caribbean pits the region’s top teams against one another for all to see.
Four total American teams will qualify in 2020 through one of the following:
2019 MLS Cup
2019 MLS Supporters’ Shield
2019 U.S. Open Cup
2019 Regular season conference champion (non-Supporters’ Shield conference)
Should a Canadian side qualify through one of these avenues, or one team win two of these trophies, their spot will be given to the American-based club with the best record that has yet to qualify.
The Supporters’ Shield is the most difficult to win, given it requires consistency and success over a 34-match schedule. MLS Cup is the most desired trophy but requires a strong regular season and a grueling postseason against the league’s top teams.
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is certainly no easy task, but it’s often not taken as seriously by Major League Soccer clubs. A combination of midweek matches, international player limits/availability, and simply coach decisions generally results in a lot of backups getting minutes.
While USL teams generally can’t compete talent-wise when playing an MLS counterpart, their willingness to play a first-choice XI and the fact that their players are less likely to receive international call-ups can often level the playing field. Sacramento may have caught the Quakes off-guard in 2015, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before San Jose clawed back to win in penalties.
"To be honest, it could be a preseason game … against anyone, we want to go out and win it," said Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski. "That's our mentality right now. We want to win the Open Cup. We know it's five games to win it. We feel that this tournament tests your depth and, even today, it shows where our depth is right now. We are one of the deepest teams I've been on.”
"We want to win it," added rising midfielder Jackson Yueill, who will miss Tuesday’s match while at U.S. U-23 camp. "We got close two years ago and we were out last year in the first round. So this year we're motivated to go far. So every game, we're going to take it as best as we can and we're ready for it."