GALAXY: Home games start CCL run

The Galaxy will have to get results right from the start when the CONCACAF Champions League kicks off next month: They open their campaign with two home games, then finish group play on the road.

That leaves no margin for error against Salvadoran powerhouse Isidro Metapan, the only club not from Mexico or Major League Soccer to reached the quarterfinals in the last competition, and Puerto Rico Islanders, a 2009 semifinalist who beat the Galaxy in the preliminary round in the 2010-11 tournament.

CONCACAF on Friday announced the matches for eight three-team, first-stage groups, with the first games -- one involving two-time defending champion Monterrey, from Mexico, and the other with Real Salt Lake visiting Costa Rica's Herediano -- set for July 31. Puerto Rico, which plays in American second-division North American Soccer League, claimed the final berth in the tournament Thursday by winning the third-place match at the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship.

The Galaxy have a bye in the first week and open their Group 5 schedule Aug. 23 at Home Depot Center against Metapan, then take on the Islanders at HDC on Aug. 29. They play Sept. 19 at Puerto Rico and Oct. 25 at Metapan.

L.A. will have no complaints about the delayed start: The friendly against Real Madrid is Aug. 2, during the first “match day,” and comes in a stretch of seven games in 23 days, including also the July 24 friendly against Tottenham.

The Galaxy will have had eight days off before their CCL opener; their other three matches split weekend league dates.

Bruce Arena guided L.A. to the top spot in its first-round group in last season's competition, but it lost to Toronto FC in a two-leg quarterfinal series in March. Only group champions advance to the final eight this time, after a structural change in the competition.

The Galaxy won the 2000 title in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, the predecessor to the current tournament. It was an eight-team event played over six days in January 2001. They're in their third successive Champions League and played in five Champions' Cups before the new format was adopted in 2008. Metapan and Puerto Rico are making their fifth straight CCL appearances.

Here is the full Group 5 schedule (all times Pacific):

Wednesday, Aug. 1

Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico) at Isidro Metapan (El Salvador), 7 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 23

Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) at Galaxy, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 29

Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico) at Galaxy, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 19

Galaxy at Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico), 5 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 27

Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) at Puerto Rico Islanders (Puerto Rico), 5 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 25

Galaxy at Isidro Metapan (El Salvador), 7 p.m.