CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: GROUPS AND QUALIFIERS SET

CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: GROUPS AND QUALIFIERS SET

LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake, Puerto Rico Islanders and Toronto FC / Vancouver whitecaps winner learn their fate.

The Groups and two-legged Qualifiers for the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League were set in a draw conducted Wednesday by deputy general secretaries Ted Howard and Italo Zanzi at the CONCACAF offices in New York.

Four and possibly five Major League Soccer teams, and one or possibly two USSF Division 2 teams learned their fates. Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew were both drown right into the Group Stages in Groups A and B respectively.

RSL qualified directly to the Group Stage as MLS Champions in 2009 and Columbus as Supporters Shield Winner for best overall season record.

Seattle Sounders, winners of the 2009 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and MLS Cup Runners-up Los Angeles Galaxy were drawn into the two-legged Preliminary Round, if they advance they will be placed in Groups C and D respectively.

A Canadian team will also be in the tournament, for the third straight season. The yet to be determined winner of the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship between Vancouver White Caps of the North American Soccer League and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer. The winner of the 2010 NCC will take on Motagua of Honduras who were runners up in the 2010 Honduran Clusura.

Seattle will face either a team from El Salvador or another team chosen by CONCACAF (more on that below) and the Los Angeles Galaxy will play impressive USL side Puerto Rico Islanders, who advanced to the semifinals of the competition two years ago.

The four Mexican teams have been sorted out but in what order remains to be determined based on the 2010 Bicentenario Mexican League Final being contested by Toluca and Santos Laguna.

The two Mexican Champions will be kept apart in the group stages from their Major League Soccer counterparts, but if the two Mexican teams that are put into the Preliminary round advance, they will be placed in Groups A and B with Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew. Similarly, if Seattle and LA advance out of the Preliminary Rounds, they will be placed in Groups C and D with the two Mexican Champions.

The complete list of ties and groups is listed below.

The first leg of the Preliminary Round begins The tournament will begin on July 27-29 with the second leg taking place the following week; August 3-5.  The Preliminary round winners will advance to the Group Stage, the first round is set for August 17-19.

The process of selection of the 24 teams participating should be straight forward, but CONCACAF’s new rule regarding stadium requirements have already pushed out two teams. The berths originally awarded to Belize and Nicaragua were awarded to Honduras (Motagua) and Panama (San Francisco) based on the performances of the clubs in their respective domestic competitions the previous season.

It gets more confusing as El Salvador is dealing with a suspension from world football levied by FIFA. The world football governing body has accused the Salvadoran government of interfering in the game by refusing to recognize the local football officials it had appointed. FIFA says it considers this to be political interference in the game and if the decision is finalised at a meeting of its executive committee and congress on June 8, the Salvadoran teams (FAS and either Águila or Isidro Metapán) will be replaced by teams that CONCACAF has yet to name.

PRELIMINARY ROUND (July 27-29 and August 3-5)
Host of first leg listed first
Central America 11 vs. Xelaju (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)

GROUP STAGES (Begin August 17-19)

GROUP A
Real Salt Lake (USA)
Arabe Unido (PAN)
San Francisco/Cruz Azul winner
Toronto-Vancouver/Motagua winner

GROUP B
Columbus Crew (USA)
Municipal (GUA)
San Juan Jabloteh/Santos-Toluca (Mexican Clausura runner-up) winner
Brujas/Joe Public winner

GROUP C
Monterrey (MEX)
Saprissa (CRC)
Seattle/Central America 12 winner
Tauro/Marathon winner

GROUP D
Santos/Toluca (Mexican Clausura champion)
Olimpia (HON)
Los Angeles Galaxy/Puerto Rico Islanders winner
Central America 11/Xelaju winner

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