thumbnail Hello,'s Allen Ramsey picks his group winners from the CCL.

By Allen Ramsey

The CONCACAF Champions League group stage got underway on Tuesday night. For the next few months Major League Soccer's three representatives will try and gain some respect for a league that was a bit of a laughing stock in last year's competition. But the road won't be any easier this time around.

D.C. United kicked off their run in Group B on the wrong side of a 3-1 match against Marathon in Honduras. The loss was not a big shock, but with Toluca looming large in the group, United will have to find a way to sneak some points on the road if they want to figure into the next round.Columbus got off to the start they needed with a win over last year's Cinderella, the Puerto Rico Islanders, but they have two CONCACAF giants waiting int he wings.

Deportivo Saprissa and Cruz Azul will offer a bit sterner test for the Crew than the USL side.Houston kicks off tonight with a match against Metapan and hold the distinction of being the MLS team that should be favored to come out of their group. But even Houston making the knockout round for the second year running is not a sure thing.

Here's a quick look at my picks from each group.

Group A-

Winners- Pachuca C.F. (Mex).
The Mexican team is the clear class of Group A.

Second Place- Houston Dynamo (USA).
Houston should be able to come out of this group and a win over Metapan tonight would set the table nicely.

Hanging On- A.D. Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) and Deportivo Arabe Unido (PAN).
Metapan is a scary team and may make a push for the knockout round, but both of these squads should be gone after the first round.

Group B-

Winners- Marathon (Hon).
This group should be a toss up between Toluca and Marathon, but the Mexican sides tend to take the group stage lightly so Marathon should have the upper hand.

Second Place- Toluca (Mex). Never pick against the Mexican sides to get out of the group. They generally get the job done.

Hanging On- DC United (USA) and San Juan Jabloteh (T&T).
  D.C. Untied should have a  fighting chance but Marathon and Toluca are a bit too strong to think the MLS side is coming out of this group.

Group C-

Winners- Deportivo Saprissa (CRC).
One of the biggest home field advantages for any team in CONCACAF is Ricardo Saprissa Stadium.

Second Place- Cruz Azul (MEX). Hard to argue against what Cruz Azul does in the Champions League. They have plenty of talent to finish second without the first team seeing much action.

Hanging On- Columbus Crew (USA) and Puerto Rico Islanders (PUR). Columbus may have a chance to take on of the top two spots but wins on the road are going to be hard to come by. The Islanders run to glory will probably be short this time around.

Group D-

Winners- Pumas (Mex). The clear class of Group D.

Second Place- CSD Comunicaciones (GUA).
They played Pumas close in Mexico and have looked dangerous.

Hanging On- Real CD Espana (HON) and W. Connection FC (T&T). Either of these squads could jump up and take Comunicaciones' place in the knockout round.

Allen Ramsey is an associate editor of USA.

For more on the CCL visit's CCL page.