Soccer

TFC on verge of Champions League

Toronto FC can clinch a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday with a win or tie against Club Deportivo Motagua in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.

Reds need a draw in Honduras to qualify for tournament

It's the biggest night in the history of Toronto FC.

Success in Major League Soccer has yet to come for the Reds, who have failed to make the playoffs since entering the league in 2007.

But despite its failures on the domestic front, TFC is on the verge of clinching a historic berth in the CONCACAF Champions League and rubbing shoulders with the elite in North American club soccer.

Toronto posted a 1-0 win over Club Deportivo Motagua at home last week in the opener of its CONCACAF Champions League qualifier. A tie or victory in Tuesday's second leg, in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, would see the Reds qualify for the tournament.

TFC's travel woes

The road to Honduras has been a rocky one for Toronto FC.

The team's charter flight was scheduled to land Monday in Tegucigalpa, site of the MLS squad's CONCACAF Champions League game against Motagua on Tuesday night.

Instead the pilot flew to San Pedro Sula after deeming that airport safer for landing, and the players were then loaded onto a bus for the winding five-hour drive to the Honduran capital.

Team officials said the squad would also depart from San Pedro Sula.

Toronto's road trip had a less-than-auspicious beginning when the team's luggage went missing on its first stop in Kansas City. The luggage showed up a couple of hours before kickoff, and Toronto went on to lose 1-0 to the Wizards on Saturday.

— Canadian Press

A Toronto loss by two goals or more in Honduras would eliminate the club from contention. But the Reds have to feel good about their prospects after comfortably containing Motagua and keeping the team off the scoreboard last week.

Still, there are two big factors working against Toronto, not the least of which is fatigue.

Tuesday's match will be Toronto's fourth in 11 days, and the team is still reeling from its 1-0 road loss to the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday. Undoubtedly, there are going to be some tired legs out there for TFC against Motagua.

Weakness on the road

What's more, TFC returns to MLS action this Saturday when it hosts Chivas USA (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3:30 pm ET), so coach Preki might be tempted to experiment with his starting lineup and rest some key players ahead of the Chivas match.

Road games have also been one of Toronto's major weaknesses this season, having won just one of eight matches away from the cozy confines of BMO Field.

Toronto can expect a hostile reception from the Honduran fans, who are notorious for throwing zip-lock bags filled with urine at opposing players.

"It's going to be pretty much like BMO, but with no rules," TFC midfielder Julian de Guzman told reporters.

"At BMO, they have restrictions for the fans and Honduras is going to be kind of like that, only with no restrictions. You're going to have bags of [urine] thrown at you and all types of things to distract us and hopefully help their side to get a win."

Toronto captain Dwayne De Rosario expects "an intense atmosphere."

'Difficult environment to play in'

"It will be a good experience for a lot of guys. But it's also very difficult environment to play in and we look forward to the challenge," De Rosario said.

The winner of this home-and-away series advances to the group stage of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League, a 16-team competition featuring the best clubs from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Should TFC qualify for the tournament, it would be placed into a first-round group with reigning MLS champions Real Salt Lake, Panamanian side Arabe Unido and the winner of a qualifier between Mexico's Cruz Azul and San Francisco of Panama.

The top two teams in each of the four round-robin groups advance to the quarter-finals. The quarter-finals, semifinals and final are contested over two legs.

The eventual winner of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League advances to the 2011 FIFA World Club Cup, which is contested by the champions from all six continental soccer confederations.

FC Barcelona defeated Argentina's Estudiantes de la Plata in the final of last year's FIFA World Club Cup final. Mexico's Atlante finished fourth after winning the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League.