The 2016/17 CONCACAF Champions League kicks off on Tuesday, while four of MLS’ five teams participating in the competition will be in action this week.
The Vancouver Whitecaps get things going in this year’s tournament as Carl Robinson’s side hits the road to take on Central FC from Trinidad & Tobago.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s action will feature the New York Red Bulls hosting Guatemalan side Antigua in Group F play, while the Portland Timbers take on Dragon later in the evening.
FC Dallas will be the last of the four teams to play their opening match in this year’s CCL, as Oscar Pareja’s group meets Real Esteli on Thursday at Toyota Stadium.
Here’s a closer look at the opening round of CCL matches:
CENTRAL FC vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Tuesday, 8 p.m.)
In only the club’s fourth season as a professional side, Central FC looks to get off to a convincing start in CCL play against MLS opposition. 2016 marks only the second time Central has qualified for the CCL, and the club will look to advance past the group stage for the first time after finishing second in Group D during the 2015/16 edition.
The Whitecaps currently occupy a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the team will now turn its attention to the CCL in their second season in the tournament. A season ago, the Whitecaps finished third in Group F play after taking four points out of as many games. However, it remains to be seen what type of roster the Canadian side will bring to Trinidad & Tobago.
PACHUCA vs. OLIMPIA (TUESDAY, 10 p.m.)
In their third season in the CCL, Pachuca looks to make a splash against their Honduran opposition. After last appearing in the tournament during the 2014/15 edition, the Liga MX side is seeking a performance with a similar result to that of 2009/10 when Pachuca knocked off fellow Mexican side Cruz Azul in the final.
Olimpia is making its eighth appearance in the CCL on Tuesday. However, the club is seeking its first title. The Honduran side last found success in the competition back in 1988 when the tournament was still the Champions’ Cup.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. ANTIGUA GFC (Wednesday, 8 p.m.)
The Red Bulls have been up and down in 2016, but despite their uneven run of performances in MLS play the defending Supporters’ Shield champions sit second in the Eastern Conference. A recent injury to captain Dax McCarty will put a damper on the team’s midfield, but the squad’s attack will have to continue to push in his absence.
Antigua is making its first CCL appearances this season, giving the Guatemalan club a major opportunity to shine on the international stage.
W CONNECTION vs. PUMAS UNAM (Wednesday, 8 p.m.)
W Connection is making its fifth appearance, and will look to advance out of the group stage after finishing in last a season ago when paired with Santos Laguna and Costa Rican side Saprissa.
Meanwhile, Pumas qualified for this season’s competition after last participating in the 2011/12 edition. Pumas were previously three-time winners of the tournament in the 1980s when it was still the Champions’ Cup.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. DRAGON (Wednesday, 10 p.m.)
In the Timbers’ second CCL campaign, the MLS side will look to avoid heartbreak again after experiencing a wrenching exit in 2014/15. Despite finishing level on points and holding a better goal differential than Olimpia on the final day of matches, their 3-1 loss to the Honduran side saw the team miss out of the knockout phase.
Dragon enters its first season in the CCL after winning El Salvador’s 2015/16 Clausura season.
DON BOSCO vs. MONTERREY (Wednesday, 10 p.m.)
While Don Bosco will feature in their first CCL tournament with a roster full of domestic players. The Haitian club finished second in the country’s top flight this past season, narrowly falling short by one point to champions Racing FC.
Monterrey has been one of the most successful CCL teams since the competition was realigned. The Mexican side has won three titles in the CCL era, winning a trifecta of championships during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.
FC DALLAS vs. REAL ESTELI (Thursday, 8 p.m.)
FC Dallas has looked dominant throughout the MLS season, and Oscar Pareja’s group will look to carry that form over to the CCL. Even with the Fabian Castillo transfer saga still ongoing, FC Dallas has more than enough fire in its attack to make a run in the tournament.
Real Esteli will look to do something it hasn’t done before in 2016/17; advance out of the group stage of the CCL. In the team’s five previous attempts, the Nicaraguan side has been unsuccessful in reaching the final eight.
PLAZA AMADOR vs. HEREDIANO (Thursday, 10 p.m.)
Plaza Amador enters its first season in the CCL, and they’ll be given a stiff test in their opening match against a Herediano side that has found success in the tournament in past years.
The Costa Rican side is making its seventh appearance, and will be looking to advance out of the group stage for the third time. Herediano previously reached the semifinals in 2014/15, before falling to Club America on aggregate.
What CCL matchup are you most excited for? Who do you think will win the first of CCL games?
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