Trinidad and Tobago, here we come.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC kick off the 2016-17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League with a visit to Central FC on Tuesday in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago (5 p.m. PT at Ato Boldon Stadium).
- READ: Get to know Central FC
All group stage matches will be broadcast on Univision Deportes in the U.S. Fans can also watch the livestream on whitecapsfc.com or the CONCACAF Facebook page.
“We’re going into the unknown a little bit,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson said last week. “Obviously you have to deal with different conditions, different temperatures, different pitches, and things like that. It will be an interesting game.”
WHAT IS THE CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE?
The CONCACAF Champions League is a 24-team competition between the top clubs from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Whitecaps FC earned Canada’s lone entry in the tournament by winning the Voyageurs Cup in last year’s Amway Canadian Championship.
The winner of the CCL qualifies for the annual FIFA Club World Cup, where they compete against the top teams from Asia, Africa, South America, Oceana, and Europe.
An MLS team has never won the CCL – though Montreal reached the final in 2014-15.
The ‘Caps are in Group C with Central FC and fellow MLS side Sporting KC.
Each team will play the others twice, once at home and once away, for a total of four matches between now and October. The winner of the group advances to the knockout stage, starting in early 2017.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
The big challenge MLS clubs face in this competition is finding the balance between fielding a competitive team that can get results, while not putting players at risk of injury and keeping them fresh for the MLS run-in.
The ‘Caps, for example, just faced FC Dallas in the 40-degree Texas heat on Sunday. Now, they’re playing another game in Trinidad and Tobago just 48 hours later.
Sometimes, that results in opportunities for others, which is part of the reason why the 'Caps have called up four WFC2 players for Tuesday's match.
“I’ll take a different group of players there,” Robinson said last week of the trip to Trinidad and Tobago. “We’ll give them a chance to play. Then we’ll regroup on Wednesday in Houston for the challenge of Colorado on Saturday."
This will be Vancouver’s second CCL appearance.
They made their debut last year but failed to advance to the knockout round after posting a 1W-2L-1D record in the group stage.
This is also Central FC’s second consecutive CCL appearance. Interestingly, they too posted a 1W-2L-1D record last year, finishing second in their group behind LA Galaxy.
The club was only founded in 2012, but they’ve already had all sorts of success.
Not only have Central FC won back-to-back TT Pro League titles, which is the top division in the country, they are also two-time defending Caribbean Football Union Club Championship winners.
They’ve also bolstered their roster for the upcoming competition with the addition of MLS-bound striker Kenwyne Jones, who captains the Trinidad and Tobago national team. The former English Premier League striker is set to join MLS expansion side Atlanta United FC next season.
However, reports on Monday suggest that Central FC have yet to receive Jones' international transfer certificate, which would deem him ineligible for Tuesday's contest.
WHITECAPS FC ROSTER - CCL GROUP STAGE MATCH 1
Goalkeepers (2): Marco Carducci, Spencer Richey
Defenders (9): Fraser Aird, Marcel de Jong, Sem de Wit, David Edgar, Pa-Modou Kah, Brett Levis, Tim Parker, Cole Seiler, Jordan Smith
Midfielders (8): Marco Bustos, Alphonso Davies, Kianz Froese, Andrew Jacobson, Ben McKendry, Nicolás Mezquida, Cristian Techera, Russell Teibert
Strikers (4): Kyle Greig, Erik Hurtado, Masato Kudo, Blas Pérez
CENTRAL FC ROSTER - CCL GROUP STAGE MATCH 1
Goalkeepers (3): Akel Clarke, Javon Sample, Jan-Michael Williams
Defenders (5): Andre Ettienne, Kaydion Gabriel, Keion Goodridge, Elton John, Kevon Villaroel
Midfielders (10): Kadeem Corbin, Keron Cummings, Sean de Silva, Jomoul Francois, Nathaniel Garcia, Mickaeel Jem Gordon, Jason Marcano, Darren Mitchell, Leston Paul, Johan Peltier
Strikers (2): Nicholas Dillon, Marcus Joseph
WHITECAPS FC CCL GROUP STAGE SCHEDULE
Tuesday, August 2 at Central FC: 5 p.m. PT
Tuesday, August 23 vs. Sporting KC at BC Place: 7 p.m. PT
Tuesday, September 13 at Sporting KC: 5 p.m. PT
Wednesday, September 28 vs. Central FC at BC Place: 7 p.m. PT
Be a part of the best sporting atmosphere in Vancouver! Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including Half-Season Packs, 5-Packs, a Youth Soccer Half-Season Ticket, and single match tickets. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.