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New York Red Bulls learn 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League group stage schedule

The CCL schedule is not without its challenges, but perhaps it isn't as bad as it could have been.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Red Bulls found out who they would be playing in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League at the end of May: El Salvador's Alianza and Guatemalan club Antigua FC.

Now RBNY knows when it will be playing its CCL group stage opponents:

To clarify:

So RBNY will be at home on August 3rd and September 15, traveling to El Salvador for August 16, and heading to Guatemala for September 27.

Attention will naturally immediately focus on the additional pressure on the Red Bulls' summer schedule: the team will now have five games to accommodate between July 31 and August 16 - and that could rise to six if RBNY makes it as far as the US Open Cup semifinals on August 10.

September is crowded too: the two CCL fixtures will see the Red Bulls playing five games from September 11 to 27 (and the USOC final is on September 21, incidentally).

But there is good news also: RBNY does not need to think about CCL in October. The last round of group stage games will take place without the Red Bulls, meaning the last three games of the regular season and - hopefully - any playoff considerations will take place without the additional pressure of another competition. (Though the team will play its October 1st MLS match against Philadelphia on short rest, having played its last CCL group match in Guatemala on September 27.)

October is a long way off, and for any benefit from CCL's scheduling to fall to RBNY, the club must ensure its league form in the interim does not falter. The Red Bulls won't have much opportunity to rest between now and then, but there is a break in the schedule from October 1 to October 16. If RBNY is still in the mix for the post-season at that time (and it should be: the East looks likely to a topsy-turvy contest all season), it will have some time to rest, regroup, and make ready for the climax to its regular season and whatever the playoffs might have in store.

CCL will present challenges to the squad in the short term. The August 3rd home game against Antigua is between a match in Chicago on July 31 and one in LA on August 7. The El Salvador trip on August 16 adds a travel burden to what had been a relatively manageable run of East Coast games in MLS (home against Montreal on August 13; off to DC on August 21; traveling to New England on August 28).

The September 15 home game against Alianza is a little more convenient: RBNY will have played DC at Red Bull Arena on September 11 and has a short run up to Toronto scheduled for September 18. If the Red Bulls are fortunate, perhaps the September 27 CCL match in Guatemala will be insignificant (in a good way, meaning RBNY has already won the group) and key players can stay home between the club's September 24 (vs. Montreal) and October 1 (vs. Philly) home games.

The privilege of qualifying for an additional tournament is always balanced against the burden of extra games in the schedule. On balance, however, having October free of any concerns but MLS is not a bad outcome for RBNY - as long as the team can keep itself in position to take advantage of that when the time comes.