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Champions League taking shape

The New York Red Bulls will face Trinidad's W Connection in the preliminary round of the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League, it was announced at the tournament's draw on Thursday.

D.C. United, which clinched their spot by winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, will face Chalatenango of El Salvador in the preliminary round, which will consist of two home-and-home legs scheduled to be played July 28-30 and Aug. 4-6, in which aggregate goals from the two games will determine which team advances.

"We are honored to be a part of this year's CONCACAF Champions League and are excited to face W Connection," New York Red Bulls sporting director Jeff Agoos said. "We know that they will provide a difficult challenge, but we are confident that our squad is capable of advancing to the group stage."

W Connection finished second in the Trinidad and Tobago Professional League in 2008 with a 22-4-6 record and is currently 2-1-2 this season. They enjoyed a successful season last year and qualified for the tournament by winning their third Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship, defeating the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1 in the final.

After winning their first ever MLS Cup last November, the Columbus Crew earned a bid to the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League and has been drawn into Group C with Saprissa of Costa Rica, either Cruz Azul (Mexico) or Herediano (Costa Rica), and the winner between the Canadian champion and the Puerto Rico Islanders.

That Canadian champion could be Toronto FC, which must defeat the Montreal Impact by four goals or more next week to overtake Vancouver Whitecaps FC to gain that country's berth in the Nurtilite Canadian Championship.

The Houston Dynamo, a quarterfinalist last season, will head Group A with Metapan of El Salvador, the winner of the Pachuca-Guatemala pairing and the winner between Olimpia and its yet-to-be-determined Panamanian opponent.

Should the Red Bulls defeat W Connection on aggregate, they will be placed in Group D, which will consist of Mexican Clausura champion Pumas, the top-seeded team from Guatemala (either Comunicaciones or Municipal), and either Olimpia (Honduras) or the second-place team from Panama (Arabe Unido or Chorrillo).

If D.C. United advances out of the preliminary round, they would be placed in Group B, which includes Mexican Apertura champion Toluca along with Marathon of Honduras, also a quarterfinalist last season and the winner between San Juan Jabloteh and its Panamanian foe, to be decided this weekend betweeen Arabe Unido and San Francisco FC.

Dylan Butler is a contributor to