The Cascadia Champions League Match

Seattle, Vancouver get drawn together in Group F
by Ray Marcham   |   Thursday, June 04, 2015

The draw has been made, the eight groups have been set, and, of course, the end result has all eyes on Cascadia.

With all of the madness swirling around CONCACAF since last week, there was a pretty big event on the federation calendar on Monday. The draw for the Champions League took place in Miami, and the look and feel for the event that the federation likes to do for the CCL draw was fully in effect.

In the end, it was a mixed bag for the five Major League Soccer teams taking part in the event. No more than four clubs can advance to the knockout stages in the spring of 2016, and the paths for all are quite varied.

What raised the most eyebrows what Group F, when Vancouver and Seattle were drawn together. The Cascadia rivals, already at the top of the MLS Western Conference and the Cascadia Cup standings, will get two more matches with each other in the CCL and add another fascinating chapter to their 41-year rivalry.

That each club has established themselves as among the teams to beat in the early part of the MLS season makes those matches ones to look forward to. How those matches are scheduled will also be interesting, as both clubs will have to balance out MLS and cup commitments. The Sounders are hoping to be in the US Open Cup semis in mid-August (and possibly in the USOC final in late September), while the Whitecaps already have the two-legged Canadian Championship final against Montréal set for August 12 at Stade Saputo and August 26 at BC Place.

Also in that span are two league matches between Seattle and Vancouver. They play at CenturyLink Field on August 1 and at BC Place on September 19, with both matches determining who takes home the Cascadia Cup. They also would likely have a major impact on the MLS standings and possible playoff positioning, if the two clubs stay at the top of the West. Add two CCL matches to that mix, and the late summer/early fall for the Whitecaps and Sounders looks even more like a battle.

Don’t forget the Cascadia connection of the third team in Group F, traditional Honduran power Olimpia. The club from Tegucigalpa played the region’s other side, Portland Timbers, in last year’s Champions League. Los Leones lost at Providence Park in the first match 4-2, but win at home 3-1 to advance to the CCL quarterfinals (Olimpia had more away goals than Portland). They’re back in the Champions League this year, and their reward is four more matches against Cascadia clubs. If they get through to the quarterfinals this time, maybe Olimpia can call themselves, in jest, “Los Reyes de Cascadia” (The Kings of Cascadia). Whoever comes out of what some are calling the CCL’s “Group of Death” will have earned it, as no match will be easy in Group F.

Other MLS clubs had pretty good results in the CCL draw. DC United got possibly the best, as they ended up in Group H with Montego Bay United from Jamaica and Áribe Unido from Panama. But Áribe knocked Houston out of the CCL last year in the group stage, so maybe it’s not quite so easy for DC. But, on paper, that might be the easiest route for an MLS team to advance.

The draw was also kind to the Los Angeles Galaxy, as they ended up in Group D. While Central FC from Trinidad and Tobago could be an easy trip, traditional CCL participants Comunicaciones from Guatemala could give the Galaxy trouble if they’re not careful. However, one would think that this is a good group for Los Angeles, and the CCL quarterfinals should be within reach.

As for Real Salt Lake, they may have the trickiest group outside of the Cascadian Group F, but still could be seen as a good draw on paper. They also have one of Guatemala’s traditional powers, Municipal, in Group G. They also have a bit of the unknown, as the new Clausera champions from El Salvador, Santa Tecla, are in Group G, as well. Santa Tecla is a younger club than RSL, as they were established in 2007. They were promoted into El Salvador’s Primera División in 2012, and won their first Clausera crown in late May (they defeated Isidro Metapán in a 2-leg playoff final). RSL could be seen as Group G favorites, but there are tough trips ahead.

That MLS could easily have four teams in the CCL quarterfinals in the spring isn’t a far-fetched thought. There’s two chances in Group F with Seattle and Vancouver, and the groups that DC United, LA Galaxy and RSL aren’t anywhere near the “Group of Death” toughness that the Sounders and Whitecaps are in. With Montréal’s fantastic (and unexpected) run to the CCL finals in April, the five MLS clubs should all be feeling that they can not only make the Champions League final next year, but that they can win it.

But that’s down the road. First, the group stages are to be scheduled, and once that’s done, then the planning and excitement of another CONCACAF Champions League season can begin.

There will be no place where the group stage matches will be more intense, both on the field and in the stands, then Cascadia. The Seattle/Vancouver games will be the ones fans will circle on their CCL calendars, and that will help the competition greatly.

And the Champions League will become another piece of Cascadia lore, no matter who gets out of the group.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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