Toronto FC’s route to the CONCACAF Champions League final will not be an easy one.
The Reds have drawn the Colorado Rapids in the first round of the 2018 continental championship. What might be more notable, however, is that are likely to face Liga MX giants Tigres in the quarter-finals if they can progress to the next stage.
Club America are also in Toronto’s half of the draw and would be their most probable semi-final opponent.
Before any of that becomes a possibility, though, the first leg of their round-of-16 tie will be played in Colorado in the week commencing February 19. The second leg will be held in Toronto the following week.
Toronto were one of eight seeded teams in the draw, while the Rapids were the only one of the four MLS clubs to be unseeded. Due to competition rules, they could not be drawn against another American team - reducing their field of potential opponents from eight to five.
That left either Toronto or one of the four Mexican clubs that were seeded in the first round, and the draw has thrown up an all-MLS matchup.
There are two ways to look at this from TFC’s perspective.
On the one hand, Colorado were the ninth-ranked team in the draw according to the CONCACAF Club Index, meaning they were considered the strongest unseeded team in the pool - and therefore the strongest Toronto could potentially face.
In addition, the path afterwards is a daunting one.
On the other, the Reds will feel confident of navigating this tie given the 36 points that separated the two clubs last season and will not be devastated to have avoided a trip down to Central America.
Weather could be a major factor. Toronto may have hoped that a team from further south would not enjoy coming to BMO Field in freezing temperatures but Denver is even colder than Toronto in February and March, with average lows in those two months of -7.3 °C and -3.1 °C respectively.
Colorado will have a new manager this season in former New Zealand boss Anthony Hudson. He is English but was born in the United States while his father, the footballer Alan Hudson, was playing for the Seattle Sounders.
The full round-of-16 draw is as follows:
Chivas vs Cibao
Seattle Sounders vs Santa Tecla
New York Red Bulls vs Olimpia
Tijuana vs Motagua
Tigres vs Herediano
Toronto FC vs Colorado Rapids
FC Dallas vs Tauro
Club America vs Saprissa