D.C. United returned to the international stage for the 12th time in its 20-season history when it took the field against Árabe Unido in the 2015-16 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Aug. 19.
Last season, of course, the Black-and-Red faced off against teams from Panama (Tauro FC) and Jamaica (Waterhouse FC) in the group stage of the competition, and this year's group is similar, as Jamaica’s Montego Bay United FC is the third team in Group H. It’s United’s second straight appearance in the Champions League after missing out the previous four seasons. Prior to that, United played in international competitions in all but two seasons from 1997-2009.
The team famously captured the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup in 1998, one year after falling in its debut appearance in the semifinals to the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Black-and-Red have reached the semifinals of a CONCACAF tournament six times and have played in a final twice. In addition to 1998’s trophy-winning campaign, United lost, 2-1, to Mexico’s Club América in the CONCACAF Giants Cup final in 2001.
After two years without regional tournaments in 2003 and 2004, United was back in the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup in 2005. Over the next four seasons, the club suffered three semifinal defeats to Mexican sides: UNAM Pumas (2005), Chivas de Guadalajara (2007), and Pachuca (2008) – the last two by narrow 3-2 margins on aggregate.
In the fall of 2008, the competition format changed as the tournament became the CONCACAF Champions League. United struggled in its first appearance in a difficult four-team grouping, finishing behind Marathón, Cruz Azul (Mexico) and Saprissa (Costa Rica). The following season, D.C. took part in a group with Toluca (Mexico), Marathón (Honduras), and San Juan Jabloteh (Trinidad and Tobago). Despite finishing with a 3-1-2 record (10 points), United fell short of advancing as Toluca (4-1-1, 13 points) and Marathón (4-2-0, 12 points) took the top spots.
The team’s 2015 campaign began with the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, the club’s first appearance in a CONCACAF knockout round since 2008. The Black-and-Red were stung on the road, 5-2, at Alajuelense in Costa Rica and couldn’t overcome the margin in the return leg at RFK Stadium. After two victories to start this year's SCCL campaign, United will look to continue their perfect start in a rematch with Árabe Unido Tuesday night.