CONCACAF: Champions League 2010-11 Preview
Three months after Pachuca C.F. became champions of the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League, the big kick-off for the 2010-11 season in North and Central America’s elite club tournament begins on July 27. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks ahead to this season’s competition and previews the preliminary round fixtures which are played ahead of the group stage which commences from August 17-19.
Mexican teams continued their recent dominance of this competition in 2010 when the four semi-finalists all hailed from that particular country. Out of the four it was Pachuca who won the title after Édgar Benítez scored deep into stoppage time in the second leg of a close final to beat Cruz Azul on away goals (2-1; 0-1). The champions won’t be there to defend their title this time as there is no automatic qualification foor the title holders in this competition and they failed to be one of the four best teams in Mexican football last season.
Last season’s losing finalists Cruz Azul have qualified for the tournament after finishing runners up in the 2009 Torneo Apertura and will be amongst the first teams to play in this week’s preliminary round playing against San Francisco, Torneo Clausura 2010 runners up from Panama. The other Mexican side playing this week are Santos Laguna who have an away tie against Trinidad & Tobago’s San Juan Jabloteh, who finished third in the 2010 CFU Club Championship (featured previously on Stoppage Time). Two teams from Major League Soccer must also play at this stage with Landon Donovan’s Los Angeles Galaxy playing against CFU Club champions Puerto Rico Islanders whilst Seattle Sounders, who qualified after winning the US Open Cup in their maiden season as an MLS club, play against El Salvador Clausura 2010 champion Isidro Metapán.
Toronto FC is another Major League Soccer side that have qualified for this tournament but could only do through the Canadian Championship as rules bar them, or any other Canadian team, from qualifying through the MLS system. They get their campaign underway against C.D. Motagua from Honduras hoping to become the first Canadian team to qualify for the group stage since Montreal Impact did so in 2008-09. Three more matches complete the set of qualifying matches as C.D. FAS (El Salvador) play C.S.D. Xelajú (Guatemala), Brujas FC (Costa Rica) face CFU runners up Joe Public FC (T&T) and Tauro FC (Panama) against C.D. Marathón (Honduras). First legs are played between July 27-29 and the return fixtures are decided between August 3-5.
The group stages of the competition begin from August 17-19 with eight teams – C.F. Monterrey (Mexico), Deportivo Toluca (Mexico), Columbus Crew (USA), Real Salt Lake (USA), C.D. Saprissa (Costa Rica), C.D. Olimpia (Honduras), C.S.D. Municipal (Guatemala) and Arabe Unido (Panama)- qualifying automatically for this stage due to their successes at domestic level.