GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador – With the opening stage of this season’s Ecuadorian soccer league set to conclude in the coming days, the battle for the second of two berths in the 2019 Copa Libertadores group phase now begins in earnest.
Liga de Quito has already secured the first berth – and also a spot in this year’s Ecuadorian-league finals – by virtue of winning the 2018 Serie A’s first stage, whose 22nd and final match day begins Friday with a contest between seventh-place Independiente del Valle and eighth-place Macara.
Matchday 22 will continue Saturday with games pitting fifth-place Delfin against sixth-place Aucas and fourth-place Emelec against ninth-place El Nacional, while on Sunday Liga de Quito plays 10th-place Deportivo Cuenca and third-place Universidad Catolica squares off against second-place Barcelona.
The final game of the first stage, a contest between 11th-place Guayaquil City and last-place Tecnico Universitario will be played on Monday.
The second stage of the 2018 Serie A will then kick off on July 20 and run through Dec. 9.
Only two teams out of the 12 in Ecuador’s first division secure direct spots in the group stage of the following year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s premier club soccer tournament.
All of the other 11 still have hopes of joining Liga de Quito in the 2019 edition of that prestigious tournament.
Realistically, however, those currently near the bottom of the aggregate table (which includes results from both the first and second stages) will probably need to win the second stage to earn that berth.
The club that earns that second direct berth could be the team that wins the second stage.
But if Liga de Quito comes out on top in the second stage, that second berth will go to the winner of a playoff pitting the second- and third-place teams in the aggregate table.
Two other Ecuadorian-league teams also will earn spots in the 2019 Copa Libertadores qualifying stages based on their position in the aggregate table at the end of the 2018 season.