[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Another season of the UEFA Champions League kicks off next week, and the draw was held Monday for the first two qualifying rounds in which a pair of Americans will compete. Danijal Brkovic, who was born in Croatia and grew up in Johnson City, N.Y., will play for Bosnian champion Zeljeznicar against Czech champion Viktoria Plzen, and Josh Gatt's Molde will face Ireland's Sligo Rovers, though his participation is doubtful because of a likely call-up to the Gold Cup.
Only two Americans are currently assured of being on squads that will be the group stage of the Champions League: Sacha Kljestan of
Belgian champion Anderlecht and David Yelldell, a backup keeper at Bayer Leverkusen, which finished third in the German Bundesliga.
Jermaine Jones' FC Schalke 04, fourth in the Bundesliga, will enter in the playoff round, while Conor O'Brien's FC
Nordsjaelland, the Danish Superliga runner-up, will begin play in the third qualifying round.
Ten qualifiers will join 22 automatic entrants in the
group stage of the Champions League.
Americans who could play in Europa League qualifying include Clint Dempsey
(Tottenham), Jozy Altidore (if he stays at AZ), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Charlie Davies (FC Randers), Mikkel Diskerud (Rosenborg), Bryan Gerzicich (Hapoel Tel Aviv) and Tony Taylor (if he moves to AC Omonia).
Only seven of the 154 entrants qualify automatically for the group stage of the Europa League.
First Qualifying Round
Shirak vs. Tre Penne
Lusitans vs. v EB/Streymur
Dates: July 2-3 and July 9-10
Second Qualifying Round
Neftci PFK vs. Skenderbeu
Steaua Bucharest vs. Vardar
Plzen vs. Zeljeznicar
FC Sheriff vs. Sutjeska
Birkirkara vs. Maribor
Sligo Rovers vs. Molde
Elfsborg vs. Daugava Daugavpils
HJK Helsinki vs. Nomme Kalju
vs. FH Hafnarfjordur
The New Saints FC vs. Legia Warsaw
Celtic vs. Cliftonville
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Fola Esch
Gyori ETO vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv
FC BATE Borisov vs. Shakhter
FC Shirak/Tre Penne winner vs. Partizan
Slovan Bratislava vs. Ludogorets Razgrad
Dinamo Tbilisi vs. Lusitans/EB/Streymur
July 16-17 and 23-24.