CONCACAF releases chapions pairings

D.C. United was placed in the same group with three-time champion Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica for the first round of the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League.

Recently crowned Mexican Clausura winner Santos Laguna drew the top Guatemalan side and either Chivas USA or Tauro FC of Panama.

The results of Wednesday's draw were released Monday along with the preliminary round schedule.

Besides Saprissa — which won the CONCACAF title in 2005, four-time Major League Soccer champion D.C. also drew the winner between Cruz Azul and Belize champion Hankook Verdes in Group A, along with the winner between El Salvador's Isidro Metapan and either Olimpia or Marathon of Honduras.

Santos, was placed in Group D along with the winner between two-time CONCACAF champion Alajuelense and the Puerto Rico Islanders, who play in the USL First Division.

The top Guatemalan berth will be claimed by a special playoff between Apertura and Clausura champions Municipal or Deportivo Jalapa.

The Houston Dynamo of MLS was the top seed in Group B, joined by Salvador's Firpo and the winner between Mexico City's Pumas and Jamaica's Harbour View. The last team in the group will be determined from a preliminary round meeting between San Francisco FC of Panama and either Municipal or Jalapa.

The winner of the Municipal-Jalapa series earns a direct berth into Group D, while the loser must enter the preliminary round against San Francisco.

Mexico's Apertura champion Atlante leads Group C, joined by either Olimpia or Marathon of Honduras; and the winner between Trinidad's Joe Public and the New England Revolution. The last berth in the group will come from a meeting between the Canadian and Nicaraguan champions.

Like Guatemala, the winner between Olimpia and Marathon go directly to the group stage while the loser enters the preliminary round.

The preliminary round's two legs are set for Aug. 26-Sept. 4. Group play will begin Sept. 16 and finish on Oct. 30, with the quarterfinals not scheduled until February 2008.

The champion will be determined in a two-leg final in late April.

CONCACAF is the last region to adopt a league format for its club championship, joining Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

UEFA clears Porto

FC Porto will play in next season's Champions League despite the cloud of a bribery scandal hanging over the club.

UEFA, which had barred the Portuguese champions from the lucrative competition two weeks ago, confirmed Tuesday the decision had been reversed.

"This is essentially due to the proceedings in Portugal not having been finally concluded," UEFA said in a statement.

Porto could yet lose the right to play in European club competition in 2009-10 season if its guilt in the bribery investigation is later proven.

The allegations date back to the 2003-04 season. Porto won the league that year and allegedly tried to bribe referees in two matches.

The Portuguese league acted last month on prosecutors' information gathered in a long-running criminal inquiry, known as Golden Whistle.

It deducted six points from Porto and suspended club chairman Jorge Pinto da Costa for two years.

Pinto da Costa lodged an appeal but Porto — which led the league by a big margin and was assured of the championship — accepted the punishment.

UEFA's disciplinary committee then suspended Porto from taking one of Portugal's three entries in the 2008-09 Champions League because competition rules state clubs must have a clean record in achieving their qualifying place.

But the UEFA Appeals Body last week overturned the ban for further evidence to be heard. It has now decided that Porto must be allowed to play because hearings in Portugal will not be finished by Aug. 1 when a draw is made for the Champions League third qualifying round.

Porto's victory means it and Sporting Lisbon, which placed second in the league, will go directly into the Champions League group stage. Guimaraes, which finished third, must play through a qualifying round tie to join them.

Fourth-place Benfica, which also stood to benefit from a Porto ban, must instead enter the less-rewarding UEFA Cup.

FC Dallas names coach

SMU's Schellas Hyndman is leaving a collegiate power to try to invigorate a struggling pro team.

FC Dallas introduced Hyndman as its new coach Tuesday, less than a month after an embarrassing 5-1 loss in front of the biggest home crowd in franchise history. Steve Morrow was fired two days after that setback.

The 58-year-old Hyndman made 30 trips to the NCAA tournament in 31 years as a college coach, including 23 of 24 seasons at SMU.

The Mustangs were 368-92-35 under Hyndman and made four trips to the College Cup, the soccer equivalent of the Final Four. His overall record was 466-123-49, and he had more wins than any coach in SMU history.