16 teams awaited the blind draw for Concacaf Champions League in Mexico City on Monday night, each with a manager anxious to discover their first round opponent – with the exception of New York City FC.
The NYCFC head coach position remains vacant following the departure of Dome Torrent on November 8.
Sporting Director David Lee represented City as they prepare for their initial foray into Champions League competition. City drew another CCL neophyte, A.D. San Carlos of Costa Rica who were promoted to the first division in 2017/18 and were crowned Costa Rican Primera Division Clausura champions in the 2018-2019 season. Los Toros del Norte feature 36-year old forward Jairo Arrieta who played one season with the N.Y. Cosmos and five seasons in MLS with Columbus and D.C. United.
Lee told the Official Draw Pre-Show on Youtube that he has sought the advice of other MLS sides who are familiar with the challenges of a premature start to the season.
“It’s our first time competing in this tournament, so we’d be negligent not to use the examples of other teams,” Lee said. “The early start in the tournament is the hardest thing to navigate. Every team has had different experiences – different preseason plans, different ways to navigate the MLS regular season. We’ll just try to take something from every team we’ve spoken to.”
City will begin preseason on January 11 and will play the first leg at the Estadio Carlos Ugalde Alvarez (Capacity: 5,600) in Quesada, Costa Rica on either February 18 or 20 with the second leg in New York on February 25 or 27 at a yet-to-be-announced venue.
New York City opens the MLS regular season at Columbus Crew SC on March 1.
Under Torrent, NYCFC won their first Eastern Conference regular season title to qualify for Champions League. In the Youtube interview, Lee was not asked about the club’s search for a new coach with one month before preseason commences.
If NYCFC advance to the quarterfinals, they will encounter the winner of the Tigres UANL (Mexico) and Alianza FC (El Salvador) Four other MLS teams will compete in the Round of 16 – Atlanta United meets F.C. Motagua (Honduras); LAFC will play Club Leon (Mexico); Montreal versus Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica) and the MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders are paired with C.D. Olimpia (Honduras). Also, Club America (Mexico) confronts Comunicaciones FC (Guatemala) and Cruz Azul (Mexico) tackles Portmore United FC (Jamaica)
Monterrey defeated Tigres UANL 2–1 on aggregate in the 2019 final to win their fourth title. As the winners of the Concacaf Champions League, Rayados qualified for the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar, December 11-21.