Timbers earn spot in Champions League

Portland to host matches in August and September

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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The Portland Timbers will be one of four Major League Soccer teams in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League.

The executive committee of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football announced on Friday its approval of a change to the way the four United States teams in the tournament are determined.

The change means the Timbers, who finished atop the MLS Western Conference in the 2013 regular season, will join MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City, the Supporters' Shield winner New York Red Bulls, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion DC United in the competition.

Previously, the two MLS Cup participants qualified. The rule change means both MLS regular season conference champions earn Champions League spots.

The 24-team tournament will begin group stage play next August. Groups will be determined by a draw next June. The Timbers will host two group-stage matches, likely in August and September.

There are eight three-team groups, with each team playing the other two at home and away. The top team from each group advances to the quarterfinals. The knockout phases of the competition, including the final round, each use a two-game, home and away format.

No MLS team has won the Champions League under its present format, which dates to 2005. DC United (1998) and the L.A. Galaxy (2000) won it when it was an eight-team tournament known as the Champions Cup.

Monterrey (Mexico) is the three-time defending champion, though it is not among the eight quarterfinal teams that in March will resume play in the 2013-14 tournament. The Galaxy, Sporting Kansas City and San Jose Earthquakes are among the final eight.

Notes: Timbers trade Zizzo

• The Timbers on Thursday traded winger Sal Zizzo to Sporting Kansas City for allocation money. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Allocation money is funding from MLS in addition to a club salary budgets that can be used to acquire players or to buy down a player's salary cap hit.

Zizzo, 26, had two goals and seven assists in 60 MLS games with the Timbers.

Johnson, Sinclair honored — Timbers captain Will Johnson was selected Canada's men's soccer player of the year. Portland Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair was named Canada's female soccer player of the year for the 11th time.

Morgan honored — Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan was recognized on Friday as the CONCACAF women's player of the year. Mexico's Oribe Peralta was named the confederation's male player of the year.

Sounders acquire Cooper — In a trade involving two former Timbers, Seattle traded Adam Moffat to FC Dallas for the rights to forward Kenny Cooper, who is unsigned.