Atlanta United will face Alajuelense in Champions League first round

Roberto Aldana of the Motagua FC (front) and Fernando Meza battle for a header during the first half of soccer in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Kennesaw, Ga. (John Amis, Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Roberto Aldana of the Motagua FC (front) and Fernando Meza battle for a header during the first half of soccer in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Kennesaw, Ga. (John Amis, Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

Atlanta United will face Costa Rica side LD Alajuelense in the first round of this year’s CONCACAF Champions League, a tournament pitting the best clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean against each other annually.

The first-round games will be a home-and-home series scheduled to be played at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto on April 6-8 and at Atlanta United on April 13-15. As of Monday, a team spokeswoman said it doesn’t have finalized information to share whether the game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium or at another venue. Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said Wednesday the team hasn’t been informed by CONCACAF if supporters will be allowed into the stadiums.

Atlanta United also must deal with trying to quarantine after it returns to the United States from the first leg while also training for the return leg.

Atlanta United qualified for the tournament by winning the 2019 U.S. Open Cup. Alajuelense qualified by winning the CONCACAF League tournament in 2020. It is in first place this season in Costa Rica’s first division, with 14 points from six games.

“It will be a tough matchup,” Bocanegra said. “They are in good form already.”

This will be Atlanta United’s third time playing in the Champions League. After knocking out Costa Rican team Herediano, it was eliminated by Monterrey in the quarterfinals in 2019. After knocking out Honduran team Motagua, it was eliminated by Club America in the quarterfinals in 2020.

Bocanegra said there is an advantage for Atlanta United in that it has played many games in Mexico and Central America in the past three years. This will be its fifth time playing in the region.

This will be LD Alajuelense’s sixth appearance in the tournament. It reached the semifinals in 2014-15.

If Atlanta United advances, the quarterfinals are scheduled to be played as a home-and-home series April 27-29 and May 4-6. The Five Stripes would play either Philadelphia or Saprissa.

The semifinals are scheduled to be played as a home-and-home series Aug. 10-12 and Aug. 24-26.

The championship will be a single leg and is scheduled to be played Oct. 26-28. The team that hosts will be the club that produces the most points from the early rounds. Goal-difference will be the tie-breaker, if needed.

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