DAVID SMITH - Friday, July 15, 2011
The third round of qualifying for the Champions and Europa League was drawn on Friday, giving Maurice Edu and Rangers a likely Swedish matchup while sending Clarence Goodson and Brøndby south for an Austrian encounter.
With only the first leg in the second round of qualification completed to date, the exact makeup of most pairings for the third round is still to be determined.
One such prospective meeting is that between Rangers, who will in all likelihood be featuring central midfielder Maurice Edu, and the winner of the two-game series between Swedish champions Malmö FF and Faroese winners HB Tórshavn for the third round of Champions League qualification.
As Malmö do hold a respectable 2-0 lead after the first home leg, Walter Smith's squad can be relatively sure they will be taking a flight to the southern tip of Sweden in early-August for the return leg.
In a similar fashion, Jozy Altidore and his new, temporary employers AZ Alkmaar can look forward to a trip east to the Czech Republic to face FK Jablonec, who currently hold a 2-0 lead over their second-round opponents, Albanian team Flamurtari Vlorë, in the race to reach the Europa League group stage.
The European stage is by no means a new experience for the young journeyman striker Altidore, as he has featured for parent club Villarreal in the competition in previous season.
One Europa League third-round qualifying meeting which is set in stone is that between Danish third-place team Brøndby IF and Austrians SV Ried.
American starting central defender Clarence Goodson will be experiencing his first-ever taste of European competition with the Copenhagen-area club, who will have already started their domestic season close to two weeks before the first leg in Austria.
Pehraps most in question is whether Alejandro Bedoya will ever take the field for his current club Örebro SK in the Europa League. He was rested during their first-leg scoreless draw at home against Serbians FK Sarajevo due to a reported minor injury.
With the team's ability to even come out victorious in the second round in Sarajevo to continue in the competition in question, whether the American would be called upon to take the field amidst reported transfer interest further complicates matters.
If Örebro can pass their upcoming Serbian test and get the result they need in Thursday's second leg, they will next have a meeting with Czech team Sparta Prague in the docket.
Rounding out the non-participant end of draw is a matchup between Portuguese champions SL Benfica and Turkish winners Trabzonspor, which would need a series of calamities in order to see Benfica outcast Freddy Adu take the field.
Additionally, Clint Dempsey is an unlikely candidate to participate for Fulham in their prospective third round series against either Croatians RNK Split or Slovenian team Domžale, as he will have just returned from his post-Gold Cup break.
Fulham hold a 3-1 away-leg advantage over Northern Ireland team Crusaders, and are a near lock to pass into the next round.
Champions League third-round qualifying matches will take place on July 26-27 and August 2-3, while Europa League games are to be played on July 28 and August 4.
Champions/Europa League third round qualifying draw
Champions League third qualifying round
Rangers - Malmö FF/HB Tórshavn
Benfica - Trabzonspor
Europa League third qualifying round
AZ Alkmaar - FK Jablonec/Flamurtari Vlorë
FK Sarajevo/Örebro SK - Sparta Prague
SV Ried - Brøndby IF
RNK Split/Domžale - Fulham/Crusaders FC