With the Mexican and Central American leagues all within their first three weeks of the season, a more extensive preview of the Group Stage for the CONCACAF Champions League will be done in the coming weeks. But here is a first-glance look at how the groups shake out following the conclusion of the Preliminary Round fixtures Thursday evening.
Group A: Arabe Unido, Cruz Azul, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC
A finalist in the previous two editions of the tournament, Cruz Azul is the clear favorite to advance from the group stage. Panamanian clubs have not seen a lot of success in the tournament, which likely leaves Major League Soccer sides RSL and TFC battling for the second ticket to the Quarterfinals.
Group B: Columbus Crew, Joe Public, Municipal, Santos Laguna
Another successful club previously in the Champions League, Santos Laguna is the likely first-place side in the group. The remaining three could well be locked in a tight race for the second with the outsider being Joe Public, which is in the midst of the offseason.
Group C: Marathon, Monterrey, Saprissa, Seattle Sounders
This will probably the most competitive group top to bottom. Monterrey is making its first appearance, but will be the leader as one of the favorites in the Mexican Primera. Saprissa and Marathon are both big clubs in their home countries while Seattle may be looking at the Champions League as its calling card for 2010 like it did with the US Open Cup last year.
Group D: FAS, Olimpia, Puerto Rico Islanders, Toluca
Like Monterrey, Toluca will be favored despite making their first appearance, particularly given the make-up of the group. Puerto Rico, after a tough group last time, will have a shot of advancing again and may even be favored for second given its schedule and opposition.