VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps will not have an easy start in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Vancouver was put into a group with Major League Soccer rival Seattle Sounders and Honduras’s Club Olimpia on Monday at the CCL draw.
The three teams are in Group F, one of the eight divisions in the international club tournament featuring teams from across North America.
“We’ve definitely got the most difficult group of the eight,” said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi. “You’ve got the Honduran champions and the Supporters’ Shield champions. There is some benefit to it being Seattle in that it’s just a bus ride. But, at the same time, it will be extremely competitive.”
The Supporters’ Shield is awarded to the MLS club with the most regular season points. Seattle won it in 2014.
The Whitecaps and Sounders have a heated rivalry, dating back to the North American Soccer League in the 1970s and 1980s. Although those original clubs have folded, the current teams in Vancouver and Seattle, along with the Portland Timbers, have continued the rivalry.
Dates have not been set for the Champions League matches, but Lenarduzzi says they will all be mid-week fixtures.
Lenarduzzi knows that the Sounders are tough competition but sees the short trip to Seattle as a benefit in the Whitecaps’ hectic schedule in late August and the fall.
“The fact that it’s a short hop is something that is beneficial,” said Lenarduzzi. “That’s obviously countered by the fact that they are a very good side. I’m assuming that the two of us will be fighting for playoff spots or the Supporters’ Shield so that there will be something on the line in terms of MLS play that, once we get close to the CCL fixtures, you’ll have to start determining what your lineups are.”
The Canadian Press