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A 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage Fifth Round round-up for New York Red Bulls fans

Or why OaM is thinking RBNY will be playing Vancouver Whitecaps in next year's 2016-17 CCL quarterfinals.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The final round of the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League group stage will be played this week. The results will confirm the quarterfinal match-ups, to be played next year when CCL returns from its four-month break.

The New York Red Bulls are, of course, already qualified for the quarterfinals and have no further group stage games to play. All they have to do is find out who they will play in the next round, and get sense of what the overall knockout-round bracket looks like.

There are eight groups in the CCL group stage and three are already settled: RBNY is through from Group F; Vancouver Whitecaps have won Group C; Arabe Unido won Group D. Also, it will be a very big surprise if UNAM Pumas don't win Group A.

But there are some genuine uncertainties about which teams will emerge from the four groups still in play. And final seedings are still difficult to predict.

Here then is a look back at the standings in the 2016-17 CCL group stage after the fifth round of games, as a look forward to the sixth and final match day of this phase of the competition.

Group F: Alianza, Antigua GFC, New York Red Bulls

The match between Alianza and Antigua is entirely irrelevant to the outcome of this group. RBNY has won through to the quarterfinals and just needs to know who it will play next.

Team Played Won Tied Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
New York Red Bulls (Group winner) 4 2 2 0 5 1 +4 8
Antigua (eliminated) 3 0 2 1 1 4 -3 2
Alianza (eliminated) 3 0 2 1 2 3 -1 2

Result: RBNY wins the group with eight points.

Group A: Honduras Progreso, UNAM Pumas, W Connection

The surprise in Group A came a couple of rounds ago: Honduras Progreso beat Pumas, to provide a reminder that away-days are tricky in CCL even for the well-resourced Mexican clubs.

But Pumas hold the edge over Honduras Progreso on head-to-head tiebreakers, so any result in the last game in Group A (UNAM vs W Connection) other than a Pumas loss will see the Liga MX team through to the quarterfinals. The Trinidadian side is not expected to beat even the weakened team Pumas will likely field, so it will be an upset of significant proportion if this group does not conclude with a Mexican team at its top.

Team Played Won Tied Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
Honduras Progreso 4 2 1 1 4 4 0 7
UNAM Pumas 3 2 0 1 7 4 +3 6
W Connection (eliminated) 3 0 1 2 3 6 -3 1

Prediction: Pumas win the group with nine points

Group B: Dragon, Portland Timbers, Saprissa

Only a win will do for Portland in its final group stage game against Costa Rican heavyweight Saprissa.

On the bright side, the Timbers are at home and are generally a handful for any opponent in their own stadium. On the less bright side for the Timbers: they are in a fight to make the MLS playoffs and may have to make the awkward choice between a CCL quarterfinal berth or the MLS post-season. Fielding a weakened team against Saprissa would be a risky decision. Fielding a full strength team would potentially compromise the team's weekend trip to Vancouver in search of three points and a potential playoff place.

This column is guessing Portland rolls the dice, fields a less-than-full-strength lineup against Saprissa, and stumbles accordingly.

Team Played Won Tied Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal DIfference Points
Saprissa 3 2 1 0 10 2 +8 7
Portland Timbers 3 2 0 1 6 6 0 6
Dragon (eliminated) 4 0 1 3 2 10 -8 1

Prediction: Saprissa wins the group with eight points

Group C: Central FC, Sporting Kansas City, Vancouver Whitecaps

A completely irrelevant game between KC and Central closes out Group C. The Whitecaps have won the group with maximum points and will be watching the other matches in the final round of the group stage (along with just about everyone else interested in CCL) to see where they end up in the seedings for the quarterfinal.

The 'Caps are the first team qualified for the knockout rounds with maximum points from the group stage, and only two other sides are mathematically capable of doing the same. Whatever happens, Vancouver will be a top-three seed with home advantage (i.e. playing the second leg of the series at home) for at least the quarterfinal round.

Team Games Played Won Tied Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
Vancouver Whitecaps (Group winner) 4 4 0 0 10 2 +8 12
Sporting Kansas City (eliminated) 3 0 1 2 3 7 -4 1
Central FC (eliminated) 3 0 1 2 3 7 -4 1

Result: Whitecaps win the group with 12 points

Group D: Arabe Unido, Don Bosco, Monterrey

Arabe Unido is expected to beat Don Bosco in the concluding match of Group C, thereby claiming maximum points and a high seed for the quarterfinals. The Panamanian club needs to win by three goals to clinch a higher seed than Vancouver. And it also needs to keep an eye on Pachuca's result against Olimpia in Group E: if Los Tuzos win, they will almost certainly be the number one seed for the knockout rounds.

Team Games Played Won Tied Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
Arabe Unido (Group Winner) 3 3 0 0 10 5 +5 9
Monterrey (eliminated) 4 2 0 2 9 5 +4 6
Don Bosco (eliminated) 3 0 0 3 2 11 -9 0

Prediction: Arabe Unido wins the group with 12 points

Group E: Olimpia, Pachuca, Police United

It is not at all impossible for Olimpia to win this group: it merely needs to win at home by two goals or more. But to achieve that win, it must beat Pachuca. Los Tuzos have won their three preceding CCL games by an aggregate score of 15-0; they are favorites to win their fourth CCL match as well. It is this column's contention that Olimpia will trouble Pachuca, but not enough to win the group.

Team Games Played Won Tied Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
Pachuca 3 3 0 0 15 0 +15 9
Olimpia 3 2 0 1 9 2 +7 6
Police United (eliminated) 4 0 0 4 1 23 -22 0

Prediction: Pachuca wins the group with 10 points

Group G: Herediano, Plaza Amador, UANL Tigres

Plaza Amador beat Tigres in the fifth round of group stage games: a shock result that gives pause to the assumption the UANL side was going to cruise through Group E. If Herediano can beat Tigres, Herediano is through to the next round. Of course, Plaza Amador staged its upset in Panama; Herediano has to travel to Mexico, where Tigres should be a quite different proposition.

The group is nicely poised with two teams that need a result facing off in the final round. Tigres is very much the favorite, and probably won't repeat the mistake of putting a dramatically weakened team out for CCL. Because if Plaza Amador can beat the Tigres B-team, one would expect Herediano to be able to do so as well.

Team Games Played Won Tied Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
UANL Tigres 3 2 0 1 6 3 +3 6
Herediano 3 1 1 1 4 4 0 4
Plaza Amador (eliminated) 4 1 1 2 1 6 -5 4

Prediction: Tigres win the group with nine points

Group H: FC Dallas, Real Esteli, Suchitepequez

FIFA's dispute with Guatemalan soccer is resolved and Group H will be settled as it should be: on the pitch. Dallas and Suchitepequez are tied on points, with the MLS side holding the tiebreaker advantage. The final game sees FCD in Guatemala seeking at least a point. Any sort of draw will be enough to see FCD through. Suchitepequez held out for a 0-0 tie in Dallas in the last round, but was very much second best. Still, home advantage could turn the tables, especially if FCD chooses to prioritize MLS over CCL and asks its fringe players to find a result in Guatemala.

Team Games Played Won Tied Lost Goals For Goals Against Goal Difference Points
FC Dallas 3 1 2 0 3 2 +1 5
Suchitepequez 3 1 2 0 2 1 +1 5
Real Esteli (eliminated) 4 0 2 2 3 5 -2 2

Prediction: FCD to win the group with six points

Predicted Quarterfinalists & Seedings

From a New York Red Bulls' perspective, the simplest way to think about the seedings for the CCL quarterfinals is that RBNY is pretty much guaranteed one of the bottom three seeds. And the top three are expected to be Arabe Unido, Vancouver, and Pachuca.

So for RBNY, the last round is essentially about which of those three teams it will match up against in the quarterfinals. OaM's guess is Vancouver.

A lot can happen in the final round of the group stage to change the predicted seedings (and the predicted teams) outlined below, but most of it seems to leave the 'Caps with the second seed and RBNY with the seventh.

Were the seedings below to hold (and they won't), here's how the quarterfinal round might look:

1. Arabe Unido vs 8. FC Dallas

2. Vancouver Whitecaps vs. 7. RBNY

3. Pachuca vs. 6. Saprissa

4. UNAM  Pumas vs. 5. UANL Tigres

Seed Team Points
1 Arabe Unido 12
2 Vancouver Whitecaps 12
3 Pachuca 10
4 UNAM Pumas 9
5 UANL Tigres 9
6 Saprissa 8
7 RBNY 8
8 FC Dallas 6