CONCACAF unveils new Champions League format, expands club competition field

CONCACAF Champions League Trophy - May 30, 2016

CONCACAF on Monday announced major plans to expand its international club competition structure, including a newly formatted CONCACAF Champions League and the birth of a separate club tournament that will begin in August 2017.

Most prominently, 16 clubs from across the CONCACAF region— the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean — will compete in a condensed CONCACAF Champions League beginning in 2018. The tournament will run between February and May each year, featuring a single-elimination knockout format from the Round of 16 through the final. The group stage has been removed entirely.

In addition, sixteen clubs from Central America and the Caribbean will participate in a new tournament set to begin this summer, running from August to October.

The new competition format is outlined in the graphic below, which illustrates the roadmap for the 31 clubs involved in CONCACAF tournaments on a yearly basis. In short, the champion of the 16-team Central America and Caribbean competition, held from August to October, will join 15 other teams in the CONCACAF Champions League the following February.

CONCACAF unveils new Champions League format, expands club competition field -

The single-elimination Champions League system scraps the group stage altogether, increasing the relevancy of games for fans and clubs while also compacting the championship schedule to avoid fixture congestion. Every Champions League matchup will be decided in two-legged, home-and-away, aggregate goal fashion.

CONCACAF’s revamped club competition platform is designed to increase the competitiveness and relevance of all matches by seeding participants into two separate tournaments, each of which will crown an annual champion.

The 16 Champions League participants will be comprised of the new tournament champion, four qualifiers each from Mexico and the United States, the 2017 Caribbean Cup Club Championship winner, the Canadian Championship winner, and the overall league champions of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. The winner of the Champions League will qualify for that year’s FIFA Club World Cup, held annually in December.

The CCL’s redesigned, dual-tournament format means all teams will be able to contest a full championship in a time period fully within one league season, so clubs can compete for a trophy while beginning and ending a Champions League phase with the same group of players.

According to CONCACAF, clubs that have already qualified for the 2017/18 edition of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League maintain guaranteed participation in one of the two tournaments of the upcoming club championship season; which tournament is decided based on aggregate results and the indexing of the respective leagues.

The five MLS teams currently slated to take part in the first edition of the new CONCACAF Champions League next February are Seattle Sounders FC, FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls, Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC.