If the New York Red Bulls qualify for the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League, their first-round opponent will be Dominican Republic’s Atletico Pantoja.
Before RBNY fans start booking flights to Santo Domingo, there is the small matter of the Red Bulls actually booking their place in CCL 2019 - a booking that can only be made by Atlanta United, who must beat Portland Timbers in the 2018 MLS Cup Final in order to secure CONCACAF Champions League for RBNY next year.
Since Atlanta rudely ousted the Red Bulls from contention for this year’s MLS Cup, it does seem like the least the Five Stripes could do by way of compensation. Be courteous, ATL: get it done.
Atletico Pantoja is the reigning Caribbean Club Champion - and the second consecutive club from Dominican Republic to claim that title and a CCL berth. Last year’s Caribbean Club Championship winner, Cibao had the misfortune of being drawn against eventual 2018 CCL champion Chivas, losing 7-0 on aggregate in the first round of the tournament.
CONCACAF appears to have forgotten the rules of the draw it published previously and is currently promoting the idea that either Portland Timbers or RBNY will play Atletico Pantoja in February’s CCL 2019 Round of 16 (aka the first round, since there are 16 teams in the competition).
Matchups have been set for #SCCL2019!— Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (@TheChampions) December 4, 2018
Los emparejamientos para los octavos de final de la #SCCL 2019 son los siguientes: pic.twitter.com/HgQUoTpxj4
Assuming CONCACAF was right in its initial analysis of its own competition, it is expected that either Atlanta United or RBNY will play the Dominican club - with Atlanta sliding into RBNY’s spot in the draw if it loses the MLS Cup Final on December 8.
If Atlanta wins MLS Cup, it will be playing Costa Rica’s Herediano in the round of 16 - a pleasure that will fall to Portland Timbers if they best Atlanta in the forthcoming MLS Championship game.
That match-up - 2018 MLS Champion vs Herediano - will be expected to be one the highlights of the opening round of CCL 2019. Sporting Kansas City vs Toluca and UANL Tigres vs Saprissa are the other series that catch the eye in the round of 16.
The 2019 CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 draw in full:
Alianza (El Salvador) vs Monterrey (Mexico)
Atlanta United/Portland Timbers (USA) vs Herediano (Costa Rica)
Independiente (Panama) vs Toronto FC (Canada)
Sporting Kansa City (USA) vs Toluca (Mexico)
Guastatoya (Guatemala) vs Houston Dynamo (USA)
Saprissa (Costa Rica) vs UANL Tigres (Mexico)
Atletico Pantoja (Dominican Republic) vs RBNY/Atlanta United (USA)
Marathon (Honduras) vs Santos Laguna (Mexico)
The round of 16 is scheduled to played in late February. First legs will be played between February 19 and 21; the second legs will be played between February 26 and 28.