Every year, there is another Champions League that produces some high level football, but doesn’t get near the amount of press and advertising. Nonetheless, the CONCACAF Champions League is getting revved up with the group stage beginning in August. Teams will play a home and away leg against each of the other teams in their groups. The top team in each group will advance to the knockout stage. Let’s take a look at the groups and make predictions for the group stage.
Group A: W Connection, Honduras Progreso, UNAM (Pumas)
This is a pretty weak group. W Connection and UNAM were runners up in their qualifying campaigns, while Honduras Progreso won the 2015 Apertura to gain entry. Pumas should win this group with ease, and will be heavy favorites to progress. They will travel to Trinidad and Tobago to take on W Connection in the opening match.
Prediction: Pumas (UNAM)
Group B: Dragon, Saprissa, Portland Timbers
Saprissa are a sneaky competitor here, alongside the favorites Portland Timbers. Dragon were the champions of the El Salvador Clausura. Saprissa have a history of advancing out of the group stage, so the Timbers had better be ready to roll. The Timbers open with Dragon at home, so a critical 3 points out of the gate would be huge.
Group C: Central, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Sporting KC
This is the only group with 2 MLS teams, making it one of the toughest groups in the entire tournament. The Whitecaps qualified by winning the 2015 Canadian Championships, while Sporting KC punched their ticket by winning the US Open Cup. The two MLS clubs will likely battle it out to see who advances, but first they have to take care of business against Central, starting with the Whitecaps traveling to Trinidad and Tobago in the opening match.
Prediction: Sporting KC
Group D: Don Bosco, Arabe Unido, Monterrey
Let’s call this the “exciting name group”, because there isn’t likely to be much news out of this group. Monterrey should run through this group and go into the knockout stage with vigor. They start in Haiti against Don Bosco on August 3rd, where a strong start would cement the path to the knockout stage just a little bit more.
Group E: Police United, Olimpia, Pachuca
This group might fly under the radar, but is pretty darn good. Olimpia and Pachuca have some history, with the Honduran club triumphing, as recently as 2001. Police United are an interesting club that have multiple police officers on their squad, resulting in the name of the club. They aren’t likely to advance, but you never know what can happen when teams have chemistry. This one should be a lot of fun to watch.
Group F: Alianza, Antigua, NY Red Bulls
If Red Bulls don’t win this group, they have some major problems they need to address. They open the tournament at home against Antigua, where they can ensure a smooth path to the knockout stage with a win. This should be an open and shut case, and we expect it to be one.
Prediction: NY Red Bulls
Group G: Plaza Amador, Herediano, UANL (Tigres)
Another pretty weak group that will be low on the entertainment side of things. Tigres are the strongest team in the group, but that isn’t saying a whole lot. The Panamanian and Costa Rican clubs will have a decent shot at pulling an upset and advancing out of the group. There really isn’t any big expectations for this group.
Prediction: Tigres (UANL)
Group H: Real Esteli, Suchitepequez, FC Dallas
FC Dallas have been on a real tear the first half of the MLS season, and there is no reason why that shouldn’t be expected to continue into the Champions League. Neither of the other two squads have much experience at this level, so FC Dallas have a clear advantage.
Prediction: FC Dallas