Monterrey (left) and Pachuca (right) are two former champions competing in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. (Photo: Mexsport)
MIAMI BEACH, Florida – The 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League draw on Monday produced no shortage of intriguing match-ups for the competition’s ninth edition.
With Club America missing out on qualification after capturing the last two titles, a new champion will be crowned next year. Past winners -- Monterrey and Pachuca – are back, while 2015/16 runner-up Tigres will look to take the next step.
Although a team from Mexico has lifted the trophy after the second leg of every final, the motivation to break that stranglehold could come from experienced returnees. Olimpia is the only club to qualify for every SCCL and Herediano went as far as the semifinals in 2014/15.
Perhaps a newcomer, such as Dragon, Honduras Progreso or Plaza Amador, can make a lasting mark.
CONCACAF.com takes a look at each of the eight, three-team groups:
DirecTV W Connection (Trinidad & Tobago), Honduras Progreso (Honduras), Pumas (Mexico)
Pumas has won three CONCACAF Champions Cup titles and reached the SCCL semifinals twice. If UNAM is to lift its first international trophy since 1989, though, it will do so with a new head coach. Juan Francisco Palencia, who scored nine SCCL goals as a player with the club, was named as Guillermo Vazquez’s replacement shortly after the 2016/17 draw results were announced. DirecTV W Connection fell to fellow Trinidadian side Central FC in the final of the CFU Club Championship two years in a row, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Sharks in the 2016 decider. Honduras Progreso captured the 2015 Honduran Apertura crown, but didn’t qualify for the 2016 Clausura playoffs.
Past SCCL Meetings
2009/10: DirecTV W Connection 2, Pumas 2; Pumas 2, DirecTV W Connection 1
Dragon (El Salvador), Saprissa (Costa Rica), Portland Timbers (USA)
Saprissa is the last non-Mexcan team to win a CONCACAF club championship, capturing the Champions Cup title in 2005. The Monstruo Morado will be searching for consistency in the 2016/17 SCCL. A year earlier it beat Santos and DirecTV W Connection at home, before losing to each of them on the road. The Portland Timbers triumphed in the 2015 MLS Cup and will look to make amends for a 2014/15 SCCL campaign that started with three straight wins – scoring four goals or more in each of those outings – but ended in disappointment with a group-stage closing 3-1 setback at Olimpia. Dragon lifted the 2016 Salvadoran Clausura trophy on Sunday for its first-ever SCCL berth.
Central FC (Trinidad & Tobago), Vancouver Whitecaps (Canada), Sporting Kansas City (USA)
Each of the three teams in Group C has won one or more SCCL games. Two-time defending Caribbean champion Central FC possesses an advantage at home, where it went 1W-1D-0L in two 2015/16 SCCL games, especially since its opposition will be required to make lengthy trips to Port of Spain. If the Sharks are to advance, however, a win on the road may be necessary. Last year, they lost at the LA Galaxy and Comunicaciones. This will be Sporting Kansas City’s third trip to the SCCL. It reached the 2013/14 quarterfinals, defeating Cruz Azul in the first leg 1-0 at home, before falling 5-1 at the Estadio Azul. The Vancouver Whitecaps posted a single win in four 2015/16 SCCL outings, but will look to put that experience to good use in their second appearance.
Don Bosco FC (Haiti), Arabe Unido (Panama), Monterrey (Mexico)
The return of three-time champion Monterrey is a boost to the 2016/17 SCCL. The Rayados called the Estadio Tecnologico home for each of their titles. Now, they play at the state-of-the-art Estadio BBVA Bancomer. Monterrey’s roster still contains past champions such as goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, defender Jose Maria Basanta and forward Aldo de Nigris (14 career SCCL goals). Relative newcomers, including forwards Rogelio Funes Mori and Dorlan Pabon, plus midfielder Carlos Sanchez, give belief that a fourth title is entirely possible. Arabe Unido, making its fifth SCCL appearance, is the most successful Panamanian team in the competition’s history, winning 10 games and advancing to the quarterfinals twice. Don Bosco, which has conceded one goal or fewer in its last nine CFU Club Championship matches, is the third-ever Haitian team to qualify for the SCCL.
Police United (Belize), Olimpia (Honduras), Pachuca (Mexico)
Group E contains two of the most successful clubs in CONCACAF history. Pachuca, which edged Monterrey for the 2016 Liga MX Clausura title, has won three CONCACAF Champions Cups and one Champions League. Olimpia, the 2016 Honduran Clausura champion, has lifted the Champions Cup twice, but not since 1988. In order for Pachuca to secure a quarterfinal spot, it may have to win at Olimpia, where the Lions are unbeaten in their last six SCCL games (5W-1D-0L). The Tuzos, though, are nearly impossible to defeat at the Estadio Hidalgo. At the 27,512 capacity venue, they are 9-1-0 in 10 all-time SCCL matches and went 9-2-0 during the 2016 Clausura regular season and playoffs. Police United is making its SCCL debut, becoming only second club from Belize to earn a tournament place.
Alianza (El Salvador), Antigua GFC (Guatemala), New York Red Bulls (USA)
There’s only one SCCL win between the three teams in Group F. The New York Red Bulls defeated El Salvador’s FAS in 2014, 2-0, for their lone victory in six all-time tournament games. Alianza lost both of its matches in the 2011/12 preliminary round to FC Dallas by the same 1-0 score, while Antigua GFC is making its first appearance. With three sides that appear evenly matched, each of the encounters should be tightly contested. If you’re looking for possible advantages, Alianza is unbeaten in 15 of its last 16 home games in the Salvadoran league, falling only to Aguila, 1-0, in the 2016 Clausura semifinals. In the current MLS season, the Red Bulls are 5W-0D-2L at home, but have only one win in seven away matches.
Plaza Amador (Panama), Herediano (Costa Rica), Tigres (Mexico)
If you’re looking for a group that could come down to the last kick, look no further than Group G. Tigres reached the 2015/16 final, falling to Club America, 4-1 on aggregate. Herediano, the 2016 Costa Rican Verano champion, is the last team to beat Club America in SCCL play, posting a 3-0 home win in the 2014/15 semifinals. Not to be overlooked, however, is Panamanian debutant Plaza Amador. On its way to the 2016 Panamanian Clausura title, the Leones’ extraordinary defense conceded a league-low nine goals in 18 regular-season games (no other allowed less than 16). Four Tigres’ players -- Javier Aquino, Jurgen Damm (two career Champions league goals), Jesus Dueñas and Jorge Torres Nilo -- are on Mexico’s Copa America Centenario roster. Additionally, forward Andre-Pierre Gignac (four career SCCL goals) – the 2016 Liga MX Clausura’s leading scorer with 13 goals -- is expected to see action for host France at Euro 2016.
Past SCCL Meetings
2015/16: Herediano 1, Tigres 1; Tigres 0, Herediano 0
Real Esteli (Nicaragua), Suchitepequez (Guatemala), FC Dallas (USA)
Real Esteli is by far the team with the most SCCL experience in Group H, making its sixth appearance. Though the Tren del Norte has never registered a win in the competition, 12 of its 16 all-time games have been decided by one goal or fewer. FC Dallas won its first four games in the 2011/12 edition, but went winless in its last four and did not advance past the group stage. Suchitepequez proved its SCCL credentials, topping Comunicaciones – a tournament regular – in the 2016 Guatemalan Clausura final, 4-2 on aggregate. Group H is one of only two trios in the 2016/17 SCCL that does not contain a side that has reached at least the quarterfinals in a previous edition; Group F is the other.
VIDEO: Meet All 24 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League 2016-17 Clubs