The CONCACAF Champions League group stage winds to a close this week. Will American and Mexican teams occupy all eight quarterfinal berths once round-robin play concludes?
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Real Salt Lake spent most of this season trying to secure a place in the MLS postseason. Those dreams finally faded away on Saturday, but the focus quickly shifted to the CONCACAF Champions League objective still hanging in the balance.
RSL enters the final week of Champions League group play with a quarterfinal berth firmly in sight. The prospect of reaching the last eight with a result against Municipal on Tuesday (live, 10:00p.m. ET, FS2, FOX Sports GO) offers a chance to salvage something tangible from a frustrating year.
It also presents an opportunity to continue the dominance of Liga MX and MLS sides during group play. Four teams — D.C. United, LA Galaxy, Querétaro and Seattle Sounders — are already through to the last eight. Four more — including RSL — are favored to round out the quarterfinal field this week.
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As this group-by-group breakdown ahead of the last week reveals, those expectations did not always track during the group stage. It is down to RSL and the other teams involved to ensure the resolution follows according to plan.
The fate of this group — and perhaps the fate of a quarterfinal field comprised completely of American and Mexican teams — hinges on the group finale in Torreon. Santos Laguna host Deportivo Saprissa on Tuesday with the knowledge that only a victory will keep them in the Champions League. Herediano hold the edge on the first tiebreaker (head-to-head points) after a 2-1 victory in Costa Rica back in August. Santos Laguna must procure all three points in order to advance. W Connection is already eliminated.
Copa Libertadores finalists Tigres UANL require only a point in the group finale against Herediano on Wednesday to book a place in the last eight. Tigres labored during the first three matches — Alonso Zamora scored twice in the late stages to secure a home victory over Isidro Metapan in August, for instance — without jeopardizing a safe route through. If Ricardo Ferretti’s side can claim a result here, then it stands in decent stead to claim one of the top four seeds heading into the quarterfinals.Herediano need a victory of any sort to go through after managing a 1-1 draw on home soil on Aug. 26. Isidro Metapan is already out.
1. Querétaro (7 pts., +9 GD), 2. Verdes (4 pts., -7 GD), 3. San Francisco (3 pts., -2 GD)
Querétaro completed their plod through this weak group with a 8-0 victory over Verdes on Sept. 17. Gallos Blancos are expected to procure one of the lowest seeds in the last eight after finishing with just seven points. The final match between San Francisco and Verdes on Thursday will determine the second-place finisher.
1. LA Galaxy (7 pts., +9 GD), 2. Central FC (4 pts., -4), 3. Comunicaciones (3 pts., -5)
LA Galaxy sealed a place in the last eight with a nervy 1-1 draw at Central FC on Sept. 23. The final group match at Comunicaciones (live, Wednesday, 10:00p.m. ET, FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Soccer2Go) matters only for seeding purposes. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said he planned to make several changes to his side ahead of the MLS match at Sporting Kansas City on Sunday. Central FC finishes second in the group unless Comunicaciones secures all three points.
1. Club América (9 pts., +7 GD), 2. Motagua (6 pts., -1 GD), 3. Walter Ferretti (0 pts., -6 GD)
Defending champions Club América are on course for the top seed in the quarterfinals. Las Aguilas need a victory at Motagua on Tuesday to maintain their perfect record. Motagua are still alive mathematically, but the Honduran giants must produce a result greater than the 4-0 América victory in the reverse fixture on Aug. 6 to knock out the champs. Walter Ferretti will finish bottom regardless of the result.
Seattle Sounders guaranteed safe passage out of the Group of Death with a 3-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps on Sept. 23. Sounders FC is expected to claim one of the bottom seeds — perhaps even the eighth seed with that modest goal differential — after finishing group play with seven points. Vancouver travel to Olimpia on Thursday to complete their CCL obligations and sort out second spot in the group.
1. Real Salt Lake (7 pts., +2 GD), 2. Municipal (4 pts., 0 GD), 3. Santa Tecla (2 pts., -2 GD)
Real Salt Lake need only a point at home to Municipal on Tuesday (10:00p.m. ET, FS2, FOX Sports GO) to guarantee top spot in the group. Municipal must win by two clear goals to vault RSL after the Claret-and-Cobalt registered a 1-0 victory in Guatemala on Aug. 4. Santa Tecla is idle and out.
1. D.C. United (10 pts., +6 GD), 2. Arabe Unido (3 pts., 0 GD), 3. Montego Bay United (1 pt., -6 GD)
D.C. United erased any doubt about the outcome of this group by securing three wins in their first three matches. The draw at Montego Bay United likely cinched a top-four seed in the quarterfinals, though other sides could overtake them on the final day. Montego Bay host Arabe Unido on Thursday to determine second place in the group.