The stage is set for the 2016-2017 CONCACAF Champions League after the draw took place on May 30th in Miami Beach, Florida. The tournament will have a new champion this year as back-to-back champions Club América failed to qualify. This year’s event features 24 teams that include: 4 USA teams, 4 Mexican teams, 2 teams from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago, and 1 team from Nicaragua, Belize, Haiti, and Canada. The groups are as follows: Group A:
W Connection FC (TRI), CD Honduras Progreso (HON), Pumas UNAM (MEX)
(Pick of the Group: Pumas UNAM)
CD Dragón (SLV), Deportivo Saprissa (CRC), Portland Timbers (USA)
(Pick of the Group: Deportivo Saprissa)
Central FC (TRI), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (CAN), Sporting Kansas City (USA)
(Pick of the Group: Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
Don Bosco FC (HAI), Deportivo Árabe Unido (PAN), CF Monterrey (MEX)
(Pick of the Group: CF Monterrey)
Police United FC (BLZ), Club Deportivo Olimpia (HON), CF Pachuca (MEX)
(Pick of the Group: CF Pachuca)
Alianza FC (SLV), Antigua FC (GUA), New York Red Bulls (USA)
(Pick of the Group: New York Red Bulls)
CD Plaza Amador (PAN), Club Sport Herediano (CRC), Tigres UANL (MEX)
(Pick of the Group: Club Sport Herediano)
Real Estelí FC (NCA), CD Suchitepéquez (GUA), FC Dallas (USA)
(Pick of the Group: FC Dallas)
The favorites heading into the tournament are Monterrey and Pachuca, as both teams just finished a championship run in Liga MX that saw Pachuca take home their 3rd Clausura Championship. There has never been a team that has won the Champions League (in the Champions League era) that was not from Liga MX, but in recent years teams from Major League Soccer (MLS) like the Montreal Impact and Real Salt Lake have gotten close.
The winner of each group will advance to the quarterfinals. The Vancouver Whitecaps and Sporting Kansas City have been placed in the same group, which automatically means at least one MLS team will not make it through the group stage. The Portland Timbers have their work cut out for them as they have been placed in Group B with Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa.
Pumas UNAM, FC Dallas, and New York Red Bulls all look like they could potentially dominate their respective groups. Costa Rican Champions Club Sport Herediano seem like they could eliminate a sub-par Tigres UANL and represent Costa Rica and Central America in the quarterfinals.
The tournament will start in August and the group stages will last until October. Dates and venues for games are yet to be announced.