Canada's representative – either USL First Division club Vancouver Whitecaps FC or Major League Soccer outfit Toronto FC - will play USL-1 club Puerto Rico Islanders in the preliminary round of the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League.
The Whitecaps currently lead the three-club Nutrilite Canadian Championship standings by three points over Toronto FC, with Vancouver having played all four of their tournament matches to this stage. Unless Toronto FC defeat USL-1 club Montreal Impact by four goals or more in the final championship match at Montreal's Stade Saputo on Thursday, June 18, the Whitecaps will win the Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champions, and earn Canada's lone spot in the Champions League.
On Thursday, CONCACAF drew Canada's entry in the 2009-10 edition of the competition with Puerto Rico for a two-match, aggregate goal series. The preliminary round, first leg will take place the week of July 28 to 30, while the second leg is set for the week of August 4 to 6. The winner of the Whitecaps FC/Toronto FC versus Puerto Rico match-up will advance to Champions League Group C, where they will face MLS Cup holders Columbus Crew, Costa Rican giants Club Deportivo Saprissa, and the winner of the Cruz Azul (Mexico) versus Club Sport Herediano (Costa Rica) preliminary series. The group stage, which consists of four groups of four teams each, will see each club play three home and three away matches starting the week of August 18 to 20 and concluding the week of October 20 to 22.
The top two clubs from each of the four groups will advance to the quarterfinals in March 2010. The Champions League semifinals are set for late March and early April 2010, while the final will be played as a two-match, aggregate goal series in late April of next year. The Champions League winner will represent CONCACAF at the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup. This coming December, current Champions League holders Atlante FC from Mexico will participate in the 2009 Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
The Islanders return to the Champions League for a second-straight year after claiming one of three qualifying spots in the Caribbean region. On May 15 in Macoya, Trinidad, Puerto Rico secured their spot when they defeated Haiti's Tempête FC in the semifinals of 2009 Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Champions' Cup. San Juan Jabloteh and W Connection FC from Trinidad & Tobago claimed the Caribbean's two other Champions League spots.
Last season's USL-1 regular season champions enjoyed a fairytale run in the inaugural edition of Champions League. After defeating Costa Rica's Liga Deportiva Alajuelense in the preliminary round, the Islanders finished runners-up in Group D behind Mexico's Santos Laguna. In the quarterfinals, they defeated Honduran outfit Club Deportivo Marathón 3-1 on aggregate to set up a semifinal clash with Cruz Azul. Puerto Rico's hopes of reaching the final ended when the Mexico City-based club won on penalties after the second leg.
Click here to view the full CONCACAF Champions League draw
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