CCL matches moved from Honduras amid political unrest

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With demonstrations continuing after a closely contested presidential election, Olimpia and Motagua will host games abroad

Olimpia and Motagua will play their home legs in the CONCACAF Champions League round of 16 at alternate venues amid political unrest in Honduras, the confederation announced Monday.

Motagua will host Club Tijuana on Feb. 21 at HEB Park in Edinburg, Texas. The next day, Olimpia will host the New York Red Bulls at Costa Rica's national stadium in San Jose, though that contest will be played behind closed doors because of a ban carrying over from incidents before and during the team's CONCACAF League quarterfinal against Alianza.

Unrest following the Honduran presidential election has led to regular demonstrations after Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the winner of a closely contested election between the incumbent and Salvador Nasralla.

The election took place Nov. 26 but a winner was not declared until Dec. 16. Protests and demonstrations have continued through the new year, with Hernandez sworn in during an early-morning ceremony Saturday. Hernandez is the first Honduran president to serve consecutive terms after the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal decided in late 2016 that Hernandez could seek re-election.

Frustrations had spilled over to the soccer field, with a pitch invasion causing officials to abandon a playoff match between Marathon and Real Espana. The game was rescheduled several times before finally taking place just before Christmas. With the situation still volatile, CONCACAF elected to move the round of 16 matches as well as the quarterfinals, should either Honduran team move on.

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"The requests to move the matches, made individually by each club, were approved by the CONCACAF Council per section XVII. A. of the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Regulations, which deals with cases of force majeure," the CONCACAF release states. "Per the Council decision, should either Honduran club advance to the quarterfinals of the 2018 Champions League, those matches would also be played outside Honduras, allowing time for the situation in that country to stabilize."

The second legs will be played as planned, with Tijuana hosting Motagua on Feb. 27 at Estadio Caliente and the Red Bulls hosting Olimpia on March 1 at Red Bull Arena.

This is the first edition of the CCL that will be played under the new format, with the tournament no longer having a group stage and taking place from late February to late April.

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