Reigning Caribbean champions Central FC will compete in one of two do-or-die three-team groups Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2016 when preliminary-round play runs off from 24-28 February (Group 1-3) and 2-6 March (Group 4).
Meanwhile fellow Pro League outfit and last season’s defeated finalists and multiple-time former Caribbean champions, W Connection, will host Group 1 in Trinidad (February 24-28) at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, Trinidad, where they will welcome Club Sportif Moulien (Guadeloupe), Inter Moengotapoe (Suriname) and Atletico San Cristobal (Dominican Republic).
Haiti’s Don Bosco FC will welcome Somerset Cricket Club (Bermuda) and La Gauloise de Basse-Terre (Guadeloupe) in Group 2 at the Stade Sylvio Cato in Petion Ville.
While Group 4 consists of Club Atletico Pantoja (Dominican Republic), America FC (Haiti), Arnett Gardens FC (Jamaica) and SV Notch (Suriname). Atletico Pantoja will host the group at the Estadio Olimpico Felix Sanchez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Commenting on his team’s grouping and the challenge ahead, Central FC’s interim head coach Dale Saunders said, “We were here before as a team and have a good idea in what to expect. The Jamaicans (Montego Bay United) will be the toughest [in the group stage], but once we put in the right level of preparation and the players commit to the effort, I believe the combination of our team could take us all the way again.”
Last season, under the charge of coach Terry Fenwick and Saunders as assistant coach, Central topped their three-team group in Guyana, with wins over host club Alpha United and Suriname’s Inter Moengotapoe.
The Couva Sharks went on to defeat Haiti’s Don Bosco 3-1 on penalties following a goalless draw in the semi-finals, then defeated 9-men W Connection 2-1 in the final last May to lift the Caribbean crown in their first attempt.
Connection were also perfect in last season’s group stage with wins over Antigua and Barbuda’s SAP FC and Guyana Defence Force before defeating Montego Bay United in the semi-final round, securing an all-Trinidad final.
Saunders, who was shifted into the position of interim coach last December after Central parted ways with Ross Russell after just five months, said the Couva Sharks are equipped with an experienced coaching staff, good support from the club’s management, and an experience squad.
He added that last season’s experience was an “eye-opener” for the club’s younger players, who now want to do even better for the club.
Saunders, a former Trinidad and Tobago international with experience as a player and assistant coach at the Caribbean Club Championship during his time with previous club Joe Public, added, “It’s always a good challenge at this level. It’s something I am accustomed as a player and assistant coach. I know the type of work players need to put in for this stage.”
The four group winners of this season’s edition will advance into the Final Round to be contested 29 April – 1 May 2016 in a straight knock-out format in order to crown the champions of the 2016 CFU Club Championship and also determine the three (3) Caribbean berths to the CONCACAF Champions League 2016-17.
Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship 2016 Preliminary Round
Group 1 (Ato Boldon Stadium – Couva, Trinidad)
W Connection (T&T)
Club Sportif Moulien (Guadeloupe)
Inter Moengotapoe (Suriname)
Atletico San Cristobal (Dominican Republic)
Inter Moengotapoe vs Club Sportif Moulien
W Connection vs Atletico San Cristobal
Atletico San Cristobal vs Inter Moengo Tapoe
W Connection vs Club Sportif Moulien
Club Sportif Moulien vs Atletico San Cristobal
W Connection vs Inter Moengo Tapoe
Group 2 (Stade Sylvio Cato – Petion Ville, Haiti)
Don Bosco FC (Haiti)
Somerset Cricket Club (Bermuda)
La Gauloise de Basse-Terre (Guadeloupe)
Don Bosco FC vs Somerset Cricket Club
La Gauloise de Basse-Terre vs Somerset Cricket Club
Don Bosco FC vs La Gauloise de Basse-Terre
Group 3 (Montego Bay Sports Complex – Montego Bay, Jamaica)
Montego Bay United (Jamaica)
Scholars International SC (Cayman Islands)
Central FC (T&T)
Montego Bay United vs Scholars International SC
Central FC vs Scholars International SC
Montego Bay United vs Central FC
Group 4 (Estadio Olimpico Felix Sanchez – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic)
Club Atletico Pantoja (Dominican Republic)
America FC (Haiti)
Arnett Gardens FC (Jamaica)
SV Notch (Suriname)
Arnett Gardens FC vs America FC
Club Atletico Pantoja vs SV Notch
SV Notch vs Arnett Gardens FC
Club Atletico Pantoja vs America FC
America FC vs SV Notch
Club Atletico Pantoja vs Arnett Gardens
Winners Group 1 vs Winners Group 4
Winners Group 2 vs Winners Group 3