CONCACAF Champions League: What is all about and how it works

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CONCACAF Champions League is an annual continental club football competition organized by CONCACAF for sponsorship purposes.

CONCACAF Champions League: What is all about and the schedules

The Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League is the official name for the CONCACAF Champions League.

The champion of the CONCACAF Champions League is automatically qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup quarter-finals.

Due to a three-way tie in the 1978 competition, the competition has been completed 56 times through the 2021 event, with 58 champions.

The event now has a knockout structure; prior to the 2018 competition, it featured a group stage. The champion of the CONCACAF Champions League does not automatically qualify for the following season’s competition, unlike its European and South American counterparts.

The CONCACAF Champions’ Cup was the name of the competition when it was first held in 1962. The title has been won by 28 clubs, with 13 of them winning it multiple times.

With 36 titles in total, Mexican clubs have the most triumphs. Costa Rica’s Primera División, which has won six titles in total, is the second most successful league.

Club América of Mexico is the most successful club in the competition’s history, with seven titles, followed by Cruz Azul of Mexico, which has six titles.

Saprissa of Costa Rica is the most successful non-Mexican club, having won three titles. América, Cruz Azul, Pachuca, and Monterrey are the only four Mexican teams to successfully defend the trophy.

MLS has half the field in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals  | US Soccer Players

Monterrey is the current competition winner, having defeated América in the final in 2021.

Competition format

The competition is held between February and May and features a 16-team knockout format. The top six teams (champion, runner-up, two losing semi-finalists, and two best losing quarter-finalists) from the CONCACAF League, contested at the end of the preceding calendar year, qualify automatically based on domestic performance.

Each round consists of a two-leg home-and-away series, with the victor chosen by the total number of goals scored across both legs. The away goals rule is used if the total goals are equal. If the home and away goals are tied, the game is decided by a penalty shoot-out immediately; there are no overtime periods. [4]

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Prior to 2018, the competition was split into two parts: a group stage in August and October, and a knockout phase in March and May the following year.

CONCACAF Champions League: What is all about and the schedules

The group stage included 24 teams divided into eight groups of three, with each team facing the other two teams in their group twice. The sides of the United States and Mexico could not be grouped together.

Each of the eight groups’ winners proceeded to the quarterfinals. Each phase of the knockout rounds (quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals) included a two-leg home-and-away series, with the winner determined by goal differential. [5] Performance in the group stage determined seeding in the knockout phase.

Prior to the 2012–13 season, the competition consisted of four groups of four teams, each having one Mexican and one American team. The number of teams was reduced from 24 to 16 through a preliminary round.

History

The competition was originally conceived as a means of qualifying for the CONMEBOL-organized South American Copa Libertadores. Prior to 2008, the competition was officially known as the “CONCACAF Champions’ Cup,” but it was more often known as the “Champions’ Cup.”

CONCACAF Champions League: What is all about and how it works

Over the course of its existence, the competition has taken on various distinct forms. From 1962 to 1995, the finalists, or clubs competing in the final round, were determined by clubs that qualified through two different brackets: a Caribbean Island qualifier and a Northern/Central American qualifier. At first, only the champions of the North American leagues were allowed to compete.

In 1971, the tournament was expanded to include round-robin group phases and more teams, as the runners-up of a few North American leagues began to participate.

From 1997 to 2008, after the formation of Major League Soccer in the United States, the competition was a straight knockout competition until it was rebuilt into a tournament with a group stage.

Champions’ Cup Era (1962–2008)

The Champions’ Cup, a knockout tournament, was played in a variety of formats in the competition’s maiden edition. The previous edition, which ran from 2004 to 2008, had eight teams: four from North America (two from Mexico, two from the United States), three from Central America, and one from the Caribbean.

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CONCACAF Champions League: What is all about and the schedules

Since 2005, the league’s champion has also qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup, providing clubs with an additional incentive to participate in the competition and increasing fan interest. In addition, the runner-up in the Champions’ Cup would be one of three CONCACAF representatives at the Copa Sudamericana.

Champions League Era (2008–2017)

At their November 2006 meeting, the CONCACAF Executive Committee resolved to “act upon” a proposal by the CONCACAF Secretariat to expand the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup into a wider “Champions League” style event, which was first proposed in 2003 by then-Head of Special Projects Mel Brennan. On November 14, 2007, the CONCACAF Executive Committee reported on some of the specifics.

Tournament restructuring (2018–2023)

Manuel Quintanilla, the president of the Nicaraguan Football Federation, suggested a new concept for the competition in December 2016,[8] a claim later backed up by Garth Lagerwey, the general manager of Seattle Sounders FC.

CONCACAF confirmed the revised format for the 2018 edition on January 23, 2017, removing the group stage that had been used since the competition’s rebranding to the CONCACAF Champions League in 2008.

Expansion (from 2024)

CONCACAF stated in February 2021 that the event would be restructured to include 50 participants and a regional group stage. Twenty teams from North America, twenty from Central America, and ten from the Caribbean would have been split into five groups of five, with 16 teams advancing to the knockout stage. This format was never utilized and was abandoned.

Qualification

The CONCACAF Champions League has sixteen teams: at least nine from the North American Zone (from three associations) and at least one from the Caribbean Zone (the champions of the Caribbean Club Championship).

The CONCACAF League’s top-six clubs compete for the remaining six slots, which are split between eighteen teams from the Central American Zone, three from the Caribbean Zone, and one from the North American Zone. Through the CONCACAF League, at least two Central American Zone teams will qualify.

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Nine from the North American Zone:

  • Four clubs from Mexico
  • Four clubs from the United States
  • One club from Canada

One club from the Caribbean Zone:

  • One club, qualifying via the Caribbean Club Championship

Six clubs from the Central American, Caribbean, or North American Zones.

6 clubs, qualifying via the CONCACAF League

If a club does not have an available stadium that passes CONCACAF safety criteria, it may be disqualified and replaced by a team from another association. If a club’s home stadium falls short of the requirements, it may be able to find a suitable substitute within its own country. However, if it is decided that the club is still unable to provide suitable facilities, it may be replaced.

Stadium standards

If a club does not fulfill the standards for its home stadium, it must find a suitable stadium in its own nation, and if it does not provide acceptable amenities, it risks being replaced by another team.

For the 2009–10 and 2010–11 seasons, Real Esteli of Nicaragua failed to meet stadium criteria and was replaced by another team.

Nicaragua’s Estadio Independencia has now been restored, including changes to the stadium lights, and Nicaraguan teams are now competing.

From 2009–10 to 2014–15, the qualifying team from Belize failed to meet stadium standards and was replaced by another team.

Club América of Mexico surpassed the all-time CONCACAF Champions League match attendance record on April 8, 2015, when 66,208 fans gathered at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City to watch América face Costa Rican club C.S. Herediano in the second leg of the tournament’s semifinals.

Sponsorship

Corporate sponsors of the CONCACAF Champions League include: Since 2014–15, Scotiabank has been the Champions League’s title sponsor.

Miller Lite, MoneyGram, Maxxis Tires, and Nike are some of the most well-known brands in the world. The names of the sponsors appear on the perimeter boards, as well as the boards for pre-game and post-game interviews and press conferences.

Nike also provides the official game balls and referee suits.

Broadcasters

RegionBroadcasterLanguage
 AustriaSportdigitalGerman
 CanadaOneSoccerEnglish
 CaribbeanFlow SportsEnglish
 Costa RicaESPNRepretelTeleticaSpanish
 El SalvadorESPNYSU Canal 4Spanish
 GermanySportdigitalGerman
 GuatemalaESPNRTVGSpanish
 HondurasESPNTelevicentroSpanish
 ItalyOne FootballVarious
 MexicoFox SportsSpanish
 PanamaESPNMediapro (NexTV)Spanish
  SwitzerlandSportdigitalGerman
 United StatesFox SportsEnglish
UnivisionSpanish

The CONCACAF Champions League is aired in all languages in South America on ESPN (Star+), as well as globally in English on Concacaf GO.

Finals

The CONCACAF Champions League finals have only ever been contested by clubs from Mexico, the United States, or Canada since its inception. A Mexican team eventually won each final. Monterrey and América played in the most recent final at Estadio BBVA, with Monterrey winning 1-0 and qualifying for the Club World Cup.

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