Whitecaps, Forge FC draw Mexican opponents in CONCACAF Champions Cup
The Vancouver Whitecaps will face Mexico's Tigres UANL in the first round of the revamped CONCACAF Champions Cup.
Wednesday's draw also paired Canadian Premier League champion Forge FC with a tough Mexican foe in Chivas Guadalajara. Cavalry FC, the CPL's regular-season winner, will face Orlando City SC.
The Whitecaps have faced Tigres twice before, most recently losing a penalty shootout in the Leagues Cup round of 32 in August at B.C. Place Stadium.
Tigres also won when they met in the semifinals of the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League tournament, with the Mexican side advancing.
The Vancouver-Tigres winner will face the Cavalry-Orlando victor in the round of 16 with newly crowned MLS champion Columbus possibly awaiting in the quarterfinal.
The Forge-Chivas winner will meet either Mexican powerhouse Club America or Nicaragua's Real Esteli FC in the round of 16.
Starting in 2024, the CONCACAF Champions Cup replaces the Champions League as the confederation's premier men’s tournament. The competition crowns the club champion of North and Central America and the Caribbean with the winner representing the region at the new, expanded FIFA Club World Cup.
The revamped CONCACAF tournament features 27 teams, with 22 opening play in the first of five rounds.
Five others received byes to the round of 16 — Columbus Crew (MLS champion), Inter Miami CF (Leagues Cup champion), Mexico's CF Pachuca (Liga MX champion with the most accumulated points) Costa Rica's LD Alajuelense (Central American Cup champion) and Surinam's SV Robinhood (Caribbean Cup champion).
Mexico's Club America, CF Monterrey and Tigres UANL, as the top-ranked among the remaining teams in the field, were kept away from the five teams with byes in the draw.
Tigres plays Club America on Thursday in the first leg of the 2023 Apertura final. Tigres has lost just one of its last 14 games in all competitions and won theCampeones Cup in September, defeating Los Angeles FC in a penalty shootout.
The first round of the Champions Cup will be played in February, followed by the round of 16 in March, quarterfinals and semifinals in April and the single-leg final on June 2.
The first four rounds will be home-and-away series with the final decided via a single-elimination game.
The Whitecaps qualified for the tournament by winning the Canadian Championship in June with a 2-1 decision over CF Montreal.
Hamilton's Forge defeated Calgary's Cavalry 2-1 after extra time in the October CPL championship game.
Forge previously competed in the now-defunct second-tier CONCACAF League (in 2019, 2020 and 2021) and the CONCACAF Champions League (in 2022).
Mexico's Club Leon won the CONCACAF Champions League in June, defeating LAFC 3-1 on aggregate. The Whitecaps made it to the quarterfinals, losing 6-0 to LAFC on aggregate after dispatching Honduras' Real Espana 73 on aggregate in the round of 16.
Leon playsJapan's Urawa Red Diamonds on Friday in the FIFA Club World Cup quarterfinal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published, Dec. 13, 2023