Only one week after meeting in the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield semi-finals, DIRECTV W Connection and Caledonia AIA will now compete against each other on Friday in Group 1 of the Caribbean qualifiers to the 2013/2014 CONCACAF Champions’ League.
With CONCACAF’s new rule allowing only professional clubs being enforced, a revised grouping by the Caribbean Football Union now pots Connection and last season’s Caribbean champions Caledonia along with Antigua’s Barracuda FC and Haitian club Baltimore SC in Group 1 which will be hosted by the two TT Pro League clubs at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Trinidad.
The new fixture coming out of the CFU office in Jamaica also shows that Group 2 which will be hosted in that country at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex includes home teams Boys Town FC and Portmore United grouped with Puerto Rico’s Bayamon FC and Haitian club Valencia.
This after the initially fixture showed that Caledonia were carded to travel to Jamaica to join Group 2 which included host team Boys Town, Barracuda and Valencia, while Connection were hosts of Group 1 which included Suriname’s SV Inter Moengotapoe, Baltimore and Bayamon FC.
But the qualification to the CONCACAF Champions’ League remains the same. The two group winners will automatically qualify for the Champions’ League, while the two second placed teams will play in a two-match playoff in May to decide the third and final Caribbean CCL spot.
“This competition serves as a qualifying event for the CONCACAF Champions League Tournament from which the three top teams will advance to compete in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League,” said CFU General Secretary Damien E. Hughes via an email response.
Hughes continued, “This year’s competition is made up of only professional clubs as CONCACAF has changed it regulations allowing only professional clubs to enter, and so there will be no [Caribbean Club Champions Cup] winner declared – just qualifiers for the Champions League.”
The General Secretary informed that next year the CFU will revisit the Caribbean Club Championship, however it will only be open to amateur clubs.
Hughes said that there will be two tournaments - a CONCACAF Champions League qualification tournament and a CFU Club Championship for amateur clubs. He said that it has already been communicated to all Member Associations.
“It’s worth the sacrifice,” said Caledonia Head Coach Jerry Moe who served as assistant coach to Technical Director Jamaal Shabazz last year when the Morvant-Laventille club won its maiden Caribbean Champions Cup.
He added, “It’s good that we were the last [professional] winners before they change the format and are in the tournament’s history.
“But it’s now a step up for us competing with the top teams for places in the CONCACAF Champions’ League. Basically it’s where the teams in the Trinidad would want to be. We want to play in the Champions’ League which is at a higher level and exposure, while traveling and earning a bit of money from it.”
Now looking ahead to this week’s CCL qualifiers, Moe labeled Group 1 a tough one.
“It’s going to tough group,” he said. “The Haitians are very tactical and technical. As for the Antiguans we defeated Barracuda last year, but it wasn’t easy for us and we know what they are made of. And we all know about W Connection and what they are capable of. It’s going to be tough, but it’s not a group we cannot get out, if we have the right mindset.”
Connection echoed that the group is a tough one.
Technical Director/Head Coach Stuart Charles Fevrier said it’s indeed a tough group.
“Haiti has always been one of the top countries in Caribbean football,” he said. “…so I expect the representative team (Baltimore) will try and do their country well.
“The Antigua National teams have been built around Barracuda and they did well in the World Cup qualifying. So I definitely expect a strong opponent in them as well.
“And at present, Caledonia remains one of the top clubs in the country (Trinidad and Tobago). So while we (Connection and Caledonia) are both trying to do well for T&T, it makes the group even harder.”
Connection, 2-1 winners over Caledonia in the Goal Shield semi-final last Friday at the Marvin Lee Stadium, will take on the Morvant-Laventille club in the second match of the CCL Caribbean qualifying Group 1 opening night at the Ato Boldon Stadium on Friday 26 April.
Barracuda and Baltimore will contest each other from 6pm followed by Connection against Caledonia from 8pm.
Qualifying action continues on Sunday 28 with Caledonia against Baltimore, and Connection against Barracuda. Then on the final day, Tuesday 30 April, Caledonia will have its bite at the Barracuda from 6pm followed by Connection against Baltimore from 8pm as clubs hunt spots in the CONCACAF Champions’ League.
Caribbean qualifying to the 2013/2014 CONCACAF Champions’ League
Group 1, Ato Boldon Stadium, Trinidad
Friday 26 April
Barracuda FC vs Baltimore SC—6pm
W Connection vs Caledonia AIA—8pm
Sunday 28 April
Caledonia AIA vs Baltimore SC–6pm
W Connection vs Barracuda FC—8pm
Tuesday 30 April
Caledonia AIA vs Barracuda—6pm
W Connection vs Baltimore—8pm
Group 2, Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex
Friday 26 April
Bayamon FC vs Valencia FC—6pm
Portmore United vs Boys Town FC—8pm
Sunday 28 April
Portmore United vs Valencia FC—6pm
Boys Town FC vs Bayamon FC—8pm
Tuesday 30 April
Portmore United vs Bayamon FC—6pm
Boys Town FC vs Valencia FC—8pm