Congolese Florent Ibenge coached Moroccan club Renaissance Berkane to victory in the 2022 CAF Confederation Cup. / © AFP
Moroccan club Renaissance Berkane will launch their bid for a record-equalling third CAF Confederation Cup title against Kwara United of Nigeria or AS Douanes of Niger.
The draw for the preliminary and last-32 rounds in Cairo on Tuesday pitted Kwara against Douanes during September with the winners advancing to confront Berkane in October.
Known as the Orange Boys because they hail from a region in northeast Morocco that grows citrus fruit, Berkane became a formidable force in the second-tier competition after a preliminary round exit in 2016.
They reached the quarter-finals in 2018, the final a year later and won the competition for the first time in 2020 by edging Pyramids of Egypt 1-0 in the title decider.
A shock exit at the group stage followed when they defended the title, but Berkane triumphed again last May, beating South African side Orlando Pirates on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Kwara should overcome Douanes, but their participation in the Confederation Cup for the first time since 2007 is likely to end in the following round against a Berkane side coached by Congolese Florent Ibenge.
The other Nigerian hopefuls, African debutants Remo Stars, were drawn against another Moroccan club, FAR, in the preliminary round.
FAR won the second edition of the Confederation Cup in 2005 and will hope for a longer run this season than last, when they lost at home and away against JS Kabylie of Algeria in a last-32 tie.
Ghana representatives Hearts of Oak, who won the maiden edition in 2004 of a competition modelled on the UEFA Europa League, await Douanes of Burkina Faso or Real Bamako of Mali and should progress.
Record three-time Confederation Cup title-holders CS Sfaxien of Tunisia have disappointed in recent appearances, reaching the knockout stage only once in three attempts.
However, it would be a shock if they failed to eliminate Fasil Kenema of Ethiopia or Bumamuru of Burundi and reach the play-offs in November against the CAF Champions League last-32 losers.
Preliminary round matches are scheduled for the weekends of September 9-11 and 16-18 with the last-32 fixtures set for October.