CONCACAF Champions League 2011-2012: Group Stage, Qualifiers Take Shape

Humberto Suazo and Monterrey could face Seattle Sounders FC once more in their quest to retain the CONCACAF Champions League title. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Just weeks after Monterrey claimed its first-ever CONCACAF Champions League title, a draw at CONCACAF headquarters in New York laid out the path to the pinnacle of North American club football for the coming season. As always, four Mexican clubs will take part, with Apertura 2010 winners Monterrey, along with the to be determined Clausura 2011 winners, either Monarcas Morelia or Pumas entering the tournament in the group stage. Apertura 2010 runners-up Santos Laguna and the Clausura 2011 runners-up will have to negotiate a qualifying round but can take heart in the fact that no Mexican team has failed at that stage since the CONCACAF Champions League changed to its current format in 2008.

Monterrey was drawn into Group D alongside Guatemalan outfit Comunicaciones, who were joint winners of the competition in 1978 and claimed both the Apertura and Clausura title's in Guatemala's 2010-2011 season. Also in Group D will be the winner of a playoff between Seattle Sounders FC and San Francisco FC, from Panama, meaning los rayados could be facing the Sounders again in the group stage after defeating them both games in the 2010-2011 group stage. The final team in Monterrey's group will be decided in a playoff between Costa Rican outfit Herediano and the third-placed team in the 2011 CFU Club Championship, which decides the Caribbean qualifiers to the tournament.

Information on the rest of the draw after the jump.

Apertura 2010 runners-up Santos Laguna must face a playoff against Olimpia from Honduras, who finished as runners-up in both the Apertura and Clausura tournaments in the 2010-2011 season and were awarded a place in the competition after Belize champions Defence Force FC failed to meet CONCACAF's stadium standards. Should Santos overcome Olimpia, they will face 2010 MLS Cup winners Colorado Rapids, Honduran 2010 Apertura winners Real España and the winner of a playoff between Salvadoran 2010 Apertura champion Isidro Metapán and the winner of the 2011 CFU Club Championship.

For the teams whose final placement is yet to be decided, the Clausura 2011 winner will play in Group C against Tauro FC of Panama, the winner of a playoff between 2010 MLS Cup runner-up FC Dallas and Salvadoran outfit Alianza FC, and the winner of a playoff between the Canadian champion (either Toronto FC or the Vancouver Whitecaps) and the Nicaraguan champion.

The 2011 Clausura Liguilla runner-up will first have to negotiate a playoff with the runner-up of the 2011 CFU Club Championship. The winner will be placed in a difficult Group A with 2010 MLS Supporters' Shield winners Los Angeles Galaxy, 2010-2011 Costa Rican champions Alajuelense and the winner of a playoff between Municipal of Guatemala and Motagua of Honduras.

Here is the full draw:

Preliminary Round (July 26-28, August 2-4):

1. Motagua (HON) vs. Municipal (GUA)
2. Morelia/Pumas (Liguilla runners-up) vs. CFU Club Championship runner-up
3. Isidro Metapán (SLV) vs. CFU Club Championship winner
4. Santos Laguna vs. Olimpia (HON)
5. Alianza (SLV) vs. FC Dallas (USA)
6. Vancouver Whitecaps/Toronto FC (CAN) vs. Real Esteli/Walter Ferretti (NCA)
7. San Francisco (PAN) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (USA)
8. Herediano (CRC) vs. CFU Club Championship third-place

Group Stage (August 16-October 20):

Group A

Los Angeles Galaxy (USA)
Alajuelense (CRC)
Playoff 2 winner
Playoff 1 winner

Group B

Colorado Rapids (USA)
Real España (HON)
Playoff 4 winner
Playoff 3 winner

Group C

Morelia/Pumas (MEX-Liguilla winner)
Tauro (PAN)
Playoff 5 winner
Playoff 6 winner

Group D

Monterrey (MEX)
Comunicaciones (GUA)
Playoff 7 winner
Playoff 8 winner

The Mexican Clausura Liguilla will finish on May 22, the CFU Club Championship on May 27, the Nicaraguan championship on May 21 and the Canadian Championship on May 25, at which point all entrants for the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League will be known.

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