As you may have heard, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are headed to the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in club history thanks to a thrilling 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City on Tuesday night at Children's Mercy Park.
It’s a big deal.
Unlike Major League Soccer, which crowns the top team in Canada and the U.S., the CONCACAF Champions League is an annual competition that crowns the top team in the entire CONCACAF region, which is made up not only of North America, but also Central America and the Caribbean.
It’s a 24-team competition featuring the domestic champions from the aforementioned region. The ‘Caps, for example, qualified by winning last year’s Amway Canadian Championship.
And now, they will be one of the final eight teams.
"We created a bit of history for the football club today," Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson told reporters, "so we're delighted."
Let’s dive a little deeper.
HOW DO THE QUARTER-FINALS WORK?
Unlike the group stage, which follows a round robin format, the quarter-finals pits two teams against each other in a two-leg aggregate series – with each team hosting a match. Just like the Amway Canadian Championship, the team that scores more goals over the two legs will advance to the semifinal round, with away goal serving as the tiebreaker.
The teams that advance to the semifinals will receive at least $200,000 in prize money.
WHEN WILL THE GAMES BE PLAYED?
The quarter-finals will take place between February 21 and March 2, 2017 – just ahead of the MLS regular season. In other words, they will be Vancouver’s first meaningful games of 2017.
WHO MIGHT WE PLAY?
Each of the remaining eight teams will be seeded based on their results in the group stage, with one facing eight, two vs. seven, three vs. six, and four vs. five. That means the ‘Caps still have something to play for in their group stage finale vs. Central FC on September 28 at BC Place.
OK, back to the question.
It’s tough to say at this point. In fact, the ‘Caps are the first team to have qualified for the quarter-finals. But here are the current group-leaders who have the best shot at joining them (keeping in mind there are still plenty of matches remaining), and here are the current group standings.
- Pumas UNAM (Mexico)
- Saprissa (Costa Rica)
- CD Arabe Unido (Panama)
- Pachuca (Mexico)
- New York Red Bulls (MLS)
- Tigres UANL (Mexico)
- FC Dallas (MLS)
If we’re to assume that most of those teams advance, there’s a good chance the 'Caps will face a Mexican or MLS opponent. Either way, it will be one of the club’s biggest matches in recent history.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
Two years ago when Montreal Impact made a memorable run to the CCL Final, a crowd of 38,108 descended upon Montreal’s Olympic Stadium to watch Cameron Porter etch his name into the club history books in the second leg of the quarter-finals vs. Mexican side Pachuca.
Porter, the unlikeliest of heroes, scored in stoppage time to tie the game and send Montreal to the semifinal round. He was immediately called a hero, a legend. It was no doubt one of the greatest moments in club history – a moment that made headlines across the soccer world.
Montreal eventually lost to Mexican powerhouse Club America in the tournament final in front of a crowd of 61,004, extending Major League Soccer’s Champions League drought.
Will this be the year?
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