Update: The Colorado Rapids have drawn Toronto FC in the Round 16 of the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League.
Below is a quick refresher on the competition and it's new format published ahead of the draw.
It’s not often fans get to see their favorite teams battle the best sides from different leagues. But every calendar year, whether across the pond with UEFA, or here at home with CONCACAF, the Champions League provides just that. Spanish giants clashing with the best of the Premier League? You bet. The best of MLS colliding with their neighbors from Mexico? Absolutely. The CONCACAF Champions League is the only place you can see these high-profile meetings each season.
The annual competition is among the most prestigious in which a club can participate and is contested within each of the six FIFA regional confederations - UEFA, CONMEBOL, AFC, OFC, CAF, CONCACAF. The tournament is used to determine which clubs are the best in the world, and serves as a qualifier for the FIFA Club World Cup.
“We’re excited to be back in the CONCACAF Champions League,” Sporting Director & Interim General Manager Pádraig Smith said. “It will be a big test for us and a great opportunity for our new players to get accustomed to each other before MLS kicks off … it’s also a good chance to turn over a new leaf with (Anthony) Hudson at the helm, playing against the defending MLS Cup champions.”
The Rapids punched their ticket for the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League during the 2016 campaign, but did so in a non-traditional way. Usually, the four US slots are divided into the previous year’s MLS Cup winner, the winner of the MLS Supporters’ Shield, the winner of the conference opposite of the shield winner and the winner of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. However, since FC Dallas won both the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield in 2016, the Rapids qualified by holding the next best regular season record.
“As a player and a coach, these are the tournaments you want to play in,” head coach Anthony Hudson said. “We want to play against the best, and the new format just adds to that.”
This year the CCL is running off an updated format, which sees the elimination of the group stage in favor of two stages in which 31 club teams will compete in CONCACAF competitions.
"The expansion of the CONCACAF club competitions platform to 31 clubs is an important step forward in the Confederation's efforts to include more Member Association representation, and increase participation at the highest levels of our competitions," said CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani.
The first stage, which wrapped up in October, saw Honduran side Olímpico Metropolitano defeat Costa Rican side Santos de Guápiles. Olímpico will join the Colorado Rapids and 14 other teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League tournament, which will run from February to May.
For the second stage draw, there were two pots of eight teams. In late November, the Rapids ended up in pot two along with Deportivo Saprissa (CRC), CS Herediano (CRC*), Cibao FC (DOM), FC Motagua (HON), Club Deportivo Olimpia (HON), Tauro FC (PAN) and Santa Tecla FC (SLV).
The potential Round-of-16 were Chivas Guadalajara, Club América, Club Tijuana, and Tigres UANL or Canadian Championship winners Toronto FC. They could not meet a team from their own country in the Round of 16, which means they avoided FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders FC, and New York Red Bulls.
- FIFA is divided into six regional confederations: UEFA, CONMEBOL, AFC, OFC, CAF, CONCACAF.
- Champions League is played within each of the six confederations.
- CONCACAF stands for Confederation of North Central American & Caribbean Association Football.
- There are two stages of the CONCACAF Champions League consisting of 31 total clubs.
- The first stage includes 16 clubs from the Caribbean and Central America that compete in the CONCACAF League tournament from August to October.
- The winners of the CONCACAF League tournament move on to the second stage where they join 15 other teams in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament played between February and May.
- Those 15 teams include nine from North America (four from the US, four from Mexico and one from Canada), at least five from Central America, and at least one from the Caribbean.
- The four US slots are divided into the previous year’s MLS Cup winner, the winner of the MLS Supporters’ Shield, the winner of the conference opposite of the shield winner and the winner of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
- If a Canadian team occupies any MLS slot, or any US-based team qualifies for the Champions League by more than one method, the US team with the best MLS regular season record which has failed to otherwise qualify will fill the final spot.
- Since FC Dallas won both the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield in 2016, the Colorado Rapids qualified with the next best regular season record.
- The 16-team knockout format is played between February and May, with each round consisting of a two-leg home-and-away series.
- The winner of the tournament qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup in December, to be played in the United Arab Emirates.
Colorado Rapids Soccer Club will host the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 meeting with Toronto FC at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park on February 20 at 8:00 PM.
A ticket to the first leg will be included in every Season Ticket Membership for the 2018 Season.
Ticket presale and on-sale dates for both CCL and MLS Home Opener have been postponed due to potential schedule changes.