The Seattle Sounders will face both Honduran side CD Olimpia and the Vancouver Whitecaps in the CONCACAF Champions League Group F.
Yesterday’s draw took place in confusing fashion. All 24 teams were divided into three pots to ensure that A) the groups would be competitively balanced and B) Mexican teams and American teams wouldn’t face off until the group stage. At least the draw got B right: no Mexican team is grouped with an MLS side.
Though on the whole the draw was underwhelming. The groups are not well balanced, and some very good teams will not make the knockout round. As currently formulated, the 8 winners of the 8 groups move on. Saprissa and Santos are both in Group A, Metapan, Herediano and Tigres are all in Group B. And, of course, there is Group F. The Sounders are, arguably, in the CCL group of death.
We have a frightening draw. There will be no gimme games in this group (lucky RSL), no Nicaraguan or Jamaican teams to beat up on. However if Seattle can’t beat the best of Honduras and our neighbors to the north, we don’t deserve to take the pitch with a top-flight Mexican side.
The Vancouver draw is… interesting. Though it is good news that we don’t have to fly to Central America, and play in an extremely hostile setting, twice. The bad news is the ‘Caps are good, and good at beating us. Seattle and Vancouver are the only teams that play in the same league that are grouped together. Sure Canada is another country, but they are our Cascadian cousin. Couldn’t they at least play exotic, East Coast DC United? Of course not. Seattle is playing Portland early in the Open Cup and now we’re playing the ‘Caps in CCL. It seems like everyone and their mom is milking Cascadia.
The CCL is typically fun because it allows us MLS fans an insight into the clubs in our hemisphere. The typical American soccer fan, myself included, knows far more about European club soccer than CONCACAF club soccer. But this is our region and we should know the difference between Comunicaciones and W Connection.
Regardless of the outcome of the draw, I am glad the Sounders are back on the international stage. When it comes to club soccer, there is nothing bigger than Champions League. Sure, this isn’t UEFA. But you gotta be the king of your block before you can be king of the world.