CONCACAF Champions League: Costa Rica's Herediano to replace Belize's Belmopan Bandits
CONCACAF, the governing body of soccer in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, announced Tuesday that Belizean team Belmopan Bandits has been removed from the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League after the field at Belize's National Stadium was deemed unplayable.
Costa Rican outfit Herediano will take their place in Group 7 of the competition, where they will face Club Leon of the Liga MX and El Salvador's Isidro Metapán.
The announcement came after CONCACAF inspected for the second time the playing surface at the National Stadium on Sunday, August 10, encountering conditions that did not meet Champions League standards as described in the regulations governing the competition.
The Belize Football Federation said in a statement to Goal USA that it would fight the ruling.
"The Football Federation of Belize assures the nation that it has not given up the fight to have the Belmopan Bandits team participate in the Champions League; we believe that Belmopan Bandits has earned the right to participate in this tournament," the federation said. "We will seek the support of our Prime Minister and all Central American Football Federation in resolving this issue.
"We want to thank the Belizean public for their great support to football. This is a sad time for us as administrators of Belizean football."
Per CONCACAF statutes, the spot vacated by the Belizean team would go to a team from the country in the Central American region which had the best performance in the previous edition of the tournament. In this case, Costa Rica's Alajuelense won their 2013-14 CCL group and progressed to the semifinals of that tournament. Herediano earned the country's spot by gaining the most cumulative points over 2013 Invierno and 2014 Verano championships.
Herediano have now made their fourth consecutive CCL. They reached the knockout rounds in the 2012-13 edition, where they lost 4-1 on aggregate to the LA Galaxy (above).
In the current edition, Herediano enter Group 7 with one game between Isidro Metapán and León already having been played, a 4-2 win in El Salvador for León. Herediano's first game will take place on Aug. 21 at their Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero.