DAVID SMITH - Friday, August 5, 2016
The final playoff round for both the Europa and Champions League was set today with Fabian Johnson being the only American awaiting his team's fate for the final step before the group stage.
With John Brooks and Hertha Berlin crashing out of Europa League qualifying at the hands of Brøndby last night, the only team left in the European qualifying guantlet which fields an American is Borussia Mönchengladbach. They enter the Champions League play-off round by way of their fourth-place finish in the Bundesliga last season.
Standing between them and the lucrative group stage are Swiss runners-up, Young Boys Bern, who themselves advanced to this final step after beating Shakhtar Donetsk in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the just-completed third round.
'Gladbach are looking for a second straight appearance in the group stage after directly qualifying last season. Johnson had a highly impressive showing in the competition last season, scoring two goals and setting another two across five games.
Should they be successful, they will be aiming to improve on their last-place finish in a tough group that included Juventus, semifinalists Manchester City and eventual Europa League winners Sevilla.
The two legs will be played in midweek on either side of the Foals' DFB Pokal game against lower-league SV Drochtersen/Assel on August 20, and ahead of their first Bundesliga game of the season when they host Leverkusen the following weekend.
Conversely, Bern are already two games into their domestic season, and will have a further three league and cup games prior to facing the Germans. They are trying to reach the group stage of the competition for the first time in their history, although they have been regulars in that stage of the Europa League in recent years.
The first leg is set to be played on Tuesday, August 16 in Bern, with the return being the following Wednesday in Borussia-Park.
Champions League playoff draw
Young Boys Bern - Borussia Mönchengladbach