The 2021 Concacaf Champions League (CCL) field is all but set. Your town, your team, your Philadelphia Union are among the 16 teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean to be included in the 2021 tournament. The draw to set the first round opponents will take place tonight (Feb. 10, 2021) at 7:00 pm ET. With the CCL draw looming, let’s take a look at who at the field of teams, and who the Union could match up against.
CCL draw looming
Tonight’s Concacaf Champion’s League draw will be how the 16 teams are placed, setting up the matchups and the bracket. The top eight teams will be placed in pot 1 or A, and the bottom eight will be placed in pot 2 or B.
The draw works by selecting a random team from the pots and associating them with a number (1-8) This connects a team to a bracket placement. Once Pot A goes through this process, Pot B will do the same. The only rule in the draw for the round of 16 matchups is that teams from the same county cannot be drawn to play against each other. Let’s take a look at the teams from the two pots!
Here are the top eight teams in CCL for 2021:
Forge FC or Toronto FC (Canada), CF Monterrey (Mexico), Club America (Mexico), Cruz Azul (Mexico), Atlanta United FC (USA), Columbus Crew SC (USA), Philadelphia Union (USA) and Portland Timbers (USA).
The only spot still up for grabs comes from the Canadian Championship final that is still to be played between Forge FC and Toronto FC. Other than that match, the teams in this pot won a major trophy in 2020. This is where we see our Supporters Shield winning Philadelphia Union! So, where will the Union and other teams from Pot A be placed?
Each of these teams will be drawn first and labeled A1 through A8. Consequently, this places them in a specific place on the bracket. After that, these teams have to wait for the second pot to be drawn and placed to find out their matchup.
Here’s the teams that make up the second pot for the 2021 CCL:
Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica), LD Alajuelense (Costa Rica), Club Atletico Pantoja (Dominican Republic), Arcahaie FC (Haiti), CD Marathon (Honduras), CD Olimpia (Honduras), Club Leon (Mexico) and Real Esteli FC (Nicaragua).
These teams are ranked as 9-16 in the tournament. These teams made it into the tournament differently than the teams in Pot 1. Pot 2 teams are runners up, semifinalists, and play-in winners. They can all be branded as underdogs. However, they made it in the tournament which means they have a chance!
Similarly, the Pot 2 teams will be labeled B1 through B2. The excitement will be ramped up when these teams are drawn, as it will mean we will have matchups set for the Round of 16. for the Philadelphia Union, this will be a milestone.
What’s at stake for the Union?
The Union is labeled as one of the top eight clubs in Concacaf because of their 2020 Supporters Shield win. Now comes the test of showing that they deserve this ranking. As they look to the draw, the real test is set to begin.
For Philadelphia, the opponent they will be drawn against will be unfamiliar. The Union rarely play teams outside of the US, now they will have to play a team from Central America or the Caribean. For Union fans, I would say that the opponent the team draws shouldn’t be the area of concern. However, the expectations put on the club will be the real litmus test.
These games amplify the club. That is to say, the region will be watching, not just MLS. This brings pressure, and above all high expectations. Therefore, a Philly flop in the first round of CCL would be devastating. Consequently, the Union will be seen as favorites to come out of their round of 16. Even with the unfamiliarity to a two-leg playoff, Philly will be looked at as a representative of MLS. There has never been an MLS side that has won Concacaf Champions League, so the pressure is on.
With the CCL draw looming, we will soon know who the Union will play and how they will prepare for international competition!
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Mandatory Credit: Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire