MLS quartet learn their 2010-11 Champions League fates
The Los Angeles Galaxy's road to the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League goes through Puerto Rico, while the Seattle Sounders must survive a trip to Central America in the preliminary round just to reach the group of death.
Meanwhile, Columbus could be paired with the team that knocked them out of last year's quarterfinals in the group stage, while Real Salt Lake may have to face the two-time runners-up.
All four MLS participants in the third edition of the region's premier tournament learned their fates in Wednesday's draw, conducted by CONCACAF deputy general secretaries Ted Howard and Italo Zanzi in New York.
If LA can manage to beat the Puerto Rico Islanders in their two-legged playoff, they will gain a spot in Group D, where they will face the Mexican Bicentenario 2010 winner (Santos Laguna or Toluca), Honduran side Olímpia and a yet-to-be determined Central American team.
However, earning the victory against the Islanders won’t be an easy task. In the first edition of the Champions League, La Tropa Naranja surprised everyone by advancing to the semifinal stage, where they were eliminated on penalties by Mexico’s Cruz Azul.
By winning their own two-legged playoff, U.S. Open Cup holders Seattle can gain entry into Group C, which has the potential to be the tournament’s group of death. Mexico’s 2009 Apertura winners Monterrey will lead the group, made up of Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa and the winner between Panamanian club Tauro and Honduras' Marathón.
Direct entrants Real Salt Lake should have no trouble in Group A. This group is still largely to be decided, with only Árabe Unido of Panama as the only other confirmed team in the group. RSL’s toughest opponent, however, could be Cruz Azul, as long as the Mexican team can get past another Panamanian club, San Francisco, in the preliminary round. Rounding out the group will be the winner of the playoff between the Nutrilife Canadian Championship winners (likely Toronto FC) and Motagua of Honduras.
Finally, defending MLS Supporters' Shield winners Columbus were drawn into a relatively lighter Group B, comprising Guatemala's Municipal, the winner between Costa Rica's Brujas and Trinidad's Joe Public, and the winner between Trinidad's Jabloteh and the Mexican Bicentenario runner-up.
Should Santos defeat Toluca for the Mexican title (the first leg of the finals is Thursday, with the return leg Sunday), that would set up a group-stage rematch between the Crew and los Diablos Rojos, who eliminated the Crew this past March in the quarterfinals of the 2009-10 edition of the Champions League.
Two berths in the tourney are designated for Salvadoran clubs, but FIFA has suspended El Salvador from all competitions due to governmental interference in the Salvadoran federation's affairs. The Central American nation has until June 8 to comply with FIFA regulations or it will be barred from the Champions League.
The preliminary rounds are scheduled for July 27-29, with the return legs to be played a week later. The first round of the Group Stage is to begin on August 17-19.
(Host of first leg listed first)
Central America 11 vs. Xelajú (GUA)
Brujas (CRC) vs. Joe Public (TRI)
San Juan Jabloteh (TRI) vs. Santos-Toluca (Mexican Clausura runner-up)
San Francisco (PAN) vs. Cruz Azul (MEX)
Los Angeles Galaxy (USA) vs. Puerto Rico Islanders (PUR)
Tauro FC (PAN) vs. Marathon (HON)
Seattle Sounders (USA) vs. Central America 12
Toronto-Vancouver (Canadian champion) vs. Motagua (HON)
Real Salt Lake (USA)
Árabe Unido (PAN)
San Francisco/Cruz Azul winner
Columbus Crew (USA)
San Juan Jabloteh/Santos-Toluca (Mexican Bicentenario runner-up) winner
Brujas/Joe Public winner
Seattle/Central America 12 winner
Santos/Toluca (Mexican Bicentenario champion)
Los Angeles Galaxy/Puerto Rico Islanders winner
Central America 11/Xelajú winner