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Continental Size Changes: CONCACAF Champions League

by Sam Hazelwood about a year ago in fifa
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CONCACAF is making changes to its Champions League Format. And it’s good news for the minnows of the region!

Big news out of CONCACAF this week as the federation continues to try and reshape its image and improve. Today CONCACAF announced the unvieling of a brand new format to its much maligned Champions League. This might not come as much of a shock to some who have long thought of the current format as inferior and lacking scope or prominence on the domestic theater.

The overhaul is set to take place starting in the fall of the 2023 season. At which point three brand new regional cups are set to be rolled out. These cups will serve the purpose of acting as the qualifying stage for the confederations Champions League competition. The new cups include, the Leagues Cup (combination of Liga MX and MLS teams), the Central American Cup and the Caribbean Cup. The formats of which I will go in more detail later on.

Following the conclusion of the aforementioned cups, a preliminary round and knockout rounds will be held. It will be comprised of 22 teams made up of those teams who qualified for the Champions League through the cup competition and additional specifications. But let me briefly breakdown the three cups before we get into the details of the main competition.

Leagues Cup

The Leagues Cup is set to be one of the more exciting of the new cup competitions simply due to its composition of both MLS and Liga MX teams. Both of which should on paper field higher caliber players than their Caribbean or Central American equivalents. The cup will kick off with all teams from both leagues competing in the competition. CONCACAF has already stated it will block off a month in the summer to allow for this and the other two regional cups to be held. The exact month has yet to be selected but it’s likely to be June given the way both domestic leagues are arranged.

The winner of the Leagues Cup will gain an automatic birth in the federations Champions League as will the second and third-place teams. The format will allow for more teams in each league to taste quality competition outside of their domestic leagues while also increasing revenue.

Caribbean Cup

The Caribbean region is a lesser known zone within the federation, as little brother of sorts. However, it’s cup shows the most potential for being the more dynamic of the newly minted qualifying cup tournaments.

The Caribbean Cup will be structured with a Group Stage and Knockout Stage. A total of 10 teams are slated to take part in the tournament. However, the only thing known about the selection process is the fact that it will be done based on domestic league performance. And like the Leagues Cup the winner, second place and third place teams will secure automatic qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League.

Central American Cup

As in the case of the other two cups this cup will feature sometime in the summer. Clubs within this zone (countries south of Mexico) will qualify for the “CONCACAF Champions League via a new Central American Cup that will include a Group Stage and a Knockout Stage.” In the case of the Central American Cup a slightly larger group stage will take place. With 20 teams comprising the opening round. All of whomst will be selected based on domestic league performance within the predefined zone.

At the conclusion of the tournament six clubs will qualify for the Concacaf Champions League. Consisting of the Central American Cup Champion, second-place finisher, two losing semifinalists and two play-in winners.


The CONCACAF Champions League

Now for the details on the main competition itself. For starters, 27 teams are already confirmed to fill out the tournament. The general breakdown of which is as follows: The North American zone (USA, Mexico and Canada) will amass 18 spots. While the Central American zone (Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama) alotted a total of 6 automatic spots. Finally, the Caribbean zone (includes Suriname, French Guiana, Bermuda, and Guyana) receives the last three guaranteed positions to round the whole thing is out. The exact details on seeding are shown below.

North America

  1. Round One (15 North American clubs): Five Liga MX clubs*, four MLS clubs*, two Canadian Premier League clubs*, two Leagues Cup clubs (second and third place finishers), the US Open Cup Winner and the Canadian Championship winner.
  2. Round of 16 (3 North American clubs): Liga MX winner*, MLS Cup winner and Leagues Cup winner

*=further details coming


  1. Round One (2 Caribbean clubs): Caribbean Cup second and third place finishers
  2. Round of 16 (1 Caribbean club): Caribbean Cup Champion

Central America

  1. Round One (5 Central American clubs): Central American Cup second-place finisher, two losing semifinalists and two play-in winners.
  2. Round of 16 (1 Central American club): Central American Cup Champion

Now that your caught up. Let me quick breakdown the stages. Round One as it is currently called is a head-to-head, home and away format. Meaning 22 teams will face off against one another over two legs with a chance of make the Knockout round or the Round of 16.

Should your team happen to make it out of Round One, a potential matchup with one of five pre-qualified teams will be waiting for you on the other side. Luckily, this round like the one before it will also be a two game format with away goal differential being the tiebreaker. The same format continues for both the Quarter Finals and Semi-Finals. This set up will likely insure for some intense drama as many team's will be on the ropes going into game two of the Hom and Away. Most likely needing to overcome a significant goal differential or possibly needing to secure an all important away goal to progress. A real stroke of wisdom upon the leaderships part.

In addition, CONCACAF brass also had the wisdom to declare that the cup competition Final will be played on the weekend. This might seem like an inconsequential fact but it is very significant in the larger scheme of things. That’s because having the finale on a weekend all but ensures a high viewership and better TV ratings. Both of which are key elements for the future growth of the competition, not only within its region but on the global scale.

When all said and done this new format could very well be the shot of adrenaline the confederation needed. The new format will allow smaller lesser known clubs to show case their players not only to bigger clubs within the federation but also abroad. In addition, the TV money generated will greatly benefit all clubs involved. Helping to increase viewership and thereby potentially growing the fan bases of respective teams/leagues that take part.

Finally, the CONCACAF Champions League will also, give more clubs within Liga MX and MLS a chance at winning silverware. While furthermore driving clubs (particularly within MLS) to achieve rather than throw in the towel as many critics claim. Time will decide if this experiment is successful like with all things. But the ambition and execution so far point to greater things ahead. Who knows maybe one day the competition, domestic leagues therein, and national team's might challenge the established hierarchies of both the domestic and international game itself. Anything is possible in the New World. After all, it's where dreams are made!



About the author

Sam Hazelwood

Avid traveler. Father. Weekend hiker. I enjoy almost every sport but football is #1. My other passion is to write historical fiction. So be on the lookout for my book. Thanks for reading!

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