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Report: New York Red Bulls will be playing 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League

Good news from Sports Illustrated's Brian Straus: RBNY (and the other three MLS teams who qualified in 2016) will be in CCL 2017-18.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Illustrated's Brian Straus has weighed in with some good news: the New York Red Bulls are still qualified for the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League.

This is news it is necessary to hear, since CONCACAF has changed the format for its showpiece competition and punted all representatives from Mexico and the USA into the second phase of what is now a two-tiered tournament. This means none of them will be playing CCL 2017-18 in 2017 - and that raised the question of how US Soccer would deal with the fact it would have two sets of qualifiers for the CONCACAF tournament (those from 2016 and 2017) by 2018, but only room for one group of four.

SI's report states a decision has been reached by US Soccer: the current American qualifiers for CCL (who all qualified in 2016) will be the federation's representatives at the 2017-18 edition of the tournament. FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids, Seattle Sounders, and RBNY will be playing Champions League in 2018.

There are still some questions to be settled. In isolation, the decision to advance the USA's 2016 CCL qualifiers to the 2017-18 tournament merely kicks the can down the road: there will simply be two sets of American qualifiers (the 2017 and 2018 cohort) jostling for entry to the 2018-19 CCL.

SI reports the solution has already been worked out: for two seasons - 2017 and 2018 - there will be only two American CCL qualifiers per year. The MLS Cup and US Open Cup winners from each year will advance to CCL 2018-19 (which will start for those teams in 2019). That means that for 2017 and 2018, there is no CCL berth for the Supporters' Shield winner, nor for the regular-season winner of the MLS Conference that doesn't produce the Shield winner - which was RBNY's mode of entry to the 2017-18 tournament.

There may yet be a reprieve for the Shield winner. If the MLS Cup winner is the same as the USOC champ in 2018 or 2019, or one of the league's Canadian teams wins the post-season title (Canada selects its CCL representative from a different tournament: the Canadian Championship), then perhaps the Shield winner or next-best CCL-eligible team in the MLS regular-season standings will step forward. That detail was not shared with SI, and will have to wait for the next leak or the official announcement. (There are a number of scenarios to work out: in principle, the same team could win the MLS and USOC titles in both seasons, requiring three more qualifiers to be found via a methodology that satisfies clubs and, to a lesser extent, fans as both fair and transparent.)

For now, RBNY fans can be satisfied with one apparent certainty: the Red Bulls will be playing CCL again next year.