AMSTERDAM — The initial knockout rounds of the Europa League were drawn on Friday afternoon, with the feature matchup for Americans a round-of-32 duel between Jozy Altidore's AZ Alkmaar and Sacha Kljestan's Anderlecht.
In all, five US internationals learned their knockout fates, a new standard for the most Americans involved in a single UEFA tourney knockout draw. The first legs are all slated to be played on Feb. 16, with returns set for a week later.
United States teammates Altidore and Kljestan have not faced each other since Chivas USA won 2-0 at New York in a July 2007 MLS contest, while their current clubs have never squared off before. The winner of the tie will advance to face either Greek side PAOK or Serie A co-leaders Udinese in the sweet 16.
Elsewhere in the draw, Hannover 96 captain Steve Cherundolo drew one of Anderlecht’s league rivals in the next round after matching up with Club Brugge.
After hosting their first-ever competitive match against a Jupiler Pro League club, the Reds will close matters in Belgium. The eventual winner moves on to face the Wisła Kraków/Standard Liège survivor.
Jermaine Jones and Schalke will begin their tie against Gambrinus Liga champions FC Viktoria Plzen on the road. The two clubs have never met, but the Royal Blues are a perfect four-for-four in UEFA battles against Czech opponents. The victor's reward will be a round of 16 matchup with the Steaua Bucharest/FC Twente winner.
Sporting CP defender Oguchi Onyewu will work Europa league knockouts for the second straight year when the Lions begin their home-and-away series with Legia Warsaw in Poland.
Despite appearing in UEFA competition 49 of the last 50 years, the Portuguese giants will be tackling a Polish Ekstraklasa opponent for the first time. If they advance, Sporting have been drawn to meet the winner of a titanic duel between FC Porto and Manchester City.
Meanwhile, in the Champions League, backup ‘keeper David Yelldell and Bayer Leverkusen will host the opener of their round of 16 duel against defending champs FC Barcelona on Valentine's Day.