2016 CCL with Timbers huddle
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Know your CONCACAF Champions League: What are the stakes?

The Portland Timbers are back in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

The Timbers are one of five MLS teams participating in this year's tournament along with FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and the New York Red Bulls. For Portland, it will be the club’s second appearance in the tournament that pits the best club teams of North and Central America along with the Caribbean region against each other for regional supremacy.

The Timbers open their CCL campaign at home against El Salvadoran side CD Dragón on August 3 (7pm PT, TICKETS). Also joining Portland and Dragón in Group B is Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa. Each team will play each other twice (home and away) with the team with the best cumulative record moving on to the knockout rounds in the spring of 2017.

Leading up to Portland's first match, we'll be taking a look at the structure and history of the tournament.

Why should I get excited?

While the $500,000 prize money for the tournament champion is a healthy haul for any CONCACAF club, there's far more at stake for MLS teams than money.

For the Portland Timbers, this year's Champions League provides an opportunity for the reigning MLS Cup champions to measure themselves against some of the best teams in the region. Deportivo Saprissa – a three-time tournament champion – is justifiably one of the biggest non-Mexican clubs in the tournament and C.D. Dragón will no doubt offer stiff resistance, especially at home in San Miguel.

Advancing out of this challenging group and into the knockout round would be an historic first for the Timbers and an impressive achievement in its own right. Should they do so, the Timbers will have the opportunity to make league history to challenge as the first-ever MLS team to win the Champions League and earn a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup.

Of course, navigating past Dragón and Saprissa and later past a fierce slate of Liga MX opponents will prove massively challenging. But as the Timbers proved during their run to MLS Cup in 2015, with this team anything is possible.

Quick stats:
MLS CCL trophies: 2 (1998, 2000 – both predate current CCL format)
MLS record in knockout round of CCL against non-MLS opponents (2008-present): 5-17
Number of non-Mexican finalists since 2008: 2
MLS appearances at the FIFA Club World Cup: 0