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Sounders to open CONCACAF in Panama

The Sounders will face San Francisco FC of Panama in the preliminary round of the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League. The teams will compete in a two-game aggregate score match. The winner will got into a group including Monterrey of Mexico, Comunicaciones of Guatemala and team to be determined.

"I got excited because I thought we were going to San Francisco. That would be a great trip. That would be a lot closer and a lot easier to get to," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "No, I don’t know much about them. Obviously Panamanian soccer has gotten much better over the last 10 years or so. I know in qualifying when I had the youth team back in ’99 they were starting to come on. They were much better in 2005. They’ve produced some good players in the past. And it’s a difficult place to play. Their field is oftentimes wet and a little mucky, a little bit like it was in El Salvador last year at this time. So we’ve got to be sure we come through with that. And then obviously we want to advance on and we get a chance to play Monterrey again if that happens. And Comunicaciones from Guatemala will be a welcome opponent. And then I guess we either have a Caribbean team or we would play a team from Costa Rica – Herediano, I think. For us, it’s a situation of focusing on the first task, which is getting past San Francisco of Panama. That’s what we’ve got to focus on.

Update: Schmid went on to say that the Sounders would begin the series at home. However, the club now says that the schedule is correct as it appears on the CONCACAF website, with the first game in Panama -- probably July 26 or 28 (the MLS All-Star game is July 27 in New Jersey) -- and the second leg at Qwest Field at midweek between the July 30 MLS game at Houston and the Aug. 6 league game at Kansas City.

Here's the first release from the club:

Seattle Sounders FC will face Panama's San Francisco FC in the Preliminary Round of the 2011-12CONCACAF Champions League. The pairings were determined by a draw held Wednesday at the CONCACAF offices in New York.

The first leg of the Preliminary Round will be July 26-28 with the second leg August 2-4. The winners advance to the six-round Group Stage, which will begin August 16-18 and conclude October 18-20.

The Sounders FC-San Francisco FC winner will advance to Group D, joining defending Champions League winner CF Monterrey (Mexico), CD Comunicaciones (Guatemala) and the winner of the preliminary round matchup between CS Herediano (Costa Rica) and the Caribbean Club championship third-place finisher. The CFU Club Champions Cup semifinals are set for May 25 with the championship and third-place match two days later.

Seattle won its 2010-11 Preliminary Round series with El Salvador's Isidro Metapan, 2-1 on aggregate, and later finished fourth in its group, which included Monterrey. San Francisco lost to Mexico's Cruz Azul, 9-2 on aggregate, in the Preliminary Round.

Sounders FC would play its home match on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. Competition dates and ticket information will be announced soon.

Seattle earned a berth in the Champions League Preliminary round by virtue of winning the 2010 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

FC Dallas, last season's MLS Cup finalist, will also participate in the Preliminary Round. Supporters' Shield winner L.A Galaxy and MLS Cup winner Colorado Rapids have berths in the Group Stage.

The CONCACAF Champions League is open to the leading teams from federations throughout North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Monterrey won the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League last month, defeating Real Salt Lake, 3-2 on aggregate.

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