The Vancouver Whitecaps are set to determine who their group-mates will be in their sophomore appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. The draw will take place in Miami at 5pm PST.
The Champions League competition consists of 24 teams from 12 North American, Central American, and Caribbean associations. Mexico & United States are given four berths each, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago given two each, and Canada, Nicaragua, Belize, and Haiti given one each.
The Vancouver Whitecaps initial foray into the continental championship last season was not very successful. The Caps were drawn into Group F with Seattle Sounders FC and Olimpia and finished 3rd with four points. Of course, that is a bit deceiving as they basically 'threw' the last two matches.
The drawing consists of three pots with the 4 Mexican and American teams comprising one pot, two El Salvadorian and Trinidadian teams, a Panamanian, Haitian, Belize, and Nicaraguan team. The two Costa Rican, Honduran, and Guatemalan teams, and a Panamanian team comprise the rest of the Whitecaps group.
Like 2015/2016, whichever group the Whitecaps are drawn is the Group of Death given that it will include either a Liga MX or MLS squad. On the positive side, it will not include a team from one of the Central American powerhouses. If the Whitecaps are lucky enough to be drawn with another MLS squad, they should have a strong opportunity to advance as their possible opponents would be Portland, NYRB, FC Dallas, or Sporting KC. Given a trip to the Caribbean is guaranteed, I suspect the Whitecaps would prefer Portland for travel reasons. Like last season, Whitecaps fans might also prefer a Cascadia rival in their group.
The poor record the Whitecaps have playing in Dallas would probably make FC Dallas the least preferred opponent, with Sporting KC next given the lack of direct flights. Although heating up lately, and requiring a cross-continent flight, NYRB might be the second choice.
I may be in the minority among Whitecaps fans, but I am excited for this draw and I am excited for this competition. I feel like the Whitecaps could do well and I like the idea of facing some of these different clubs in different environments. What are your thoughts? Do you look forward to the competition? Do the Whitecaps stand a good chance of advancing? Who do you want the Caps to play?
For more information, here is the Wikipedia article for this season's competition.