Just over two months ago, Real Salt Lake came agonizingly close to becoming the first MLS side to win the CONCACAF Champions League. They fell in final to Mexican side Monterrey, losing out on a chance to represent the region at the Club World Cup this December in Japan.
Now, it’s time to do it all again.
This week, three MLS teams — the Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC and FC Dallas — begin their CCL campaigns with the first leg matches of their preliminary stage series.
The Sounders, who qualified for the CCL for the second year in a row by winning the US Open Cup, will face off against Panamanian club San Francisco FC on Tuesday night at the Estadio Rommel Fernández (FOX Soccer, 10 pm ET).
Last year, in their CCL debut, the Sounders finished bottom of Group C, posting a 1-5-0 record.
Like Seattle, Toronto FC have reached the CCL for the second straight year after beating the Vancouver Whitecaps in the final of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. They will host Nicaraguan Clausura champions Real Estelí.
The Reds hope to do better than they did in their last continental adventure, during which they crashed out in the group stage behind Real Salt Lake and Cruz Azul.
FC Dallas are playing in the CCL for the first time. They qualified for this stage by reaching the MLS Cup final, where they lost to the Colorado Rapids, 2-1.
Schellas Hyndman’s side takes on Salvadoran Clausura champions Alianza, who won the CONCACAF championship in 1967, on Thursday night at Estadio Cuscatlán (FOX Soccer, 10 pm ET).
Whether any of them will repeat RSL’s incredible run to last year’s final remains to be seen. This is just the first hurdle. If they get through the two-game series, the teams move on to the group stage, where they will be joined by reigning MLS Cup champions Colorado Rapids and 2010 Supporters' Shield winners LA Galaxy.