Answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions about the CONCACAF Club Competitions Platform Expansion for the 2017/18 Edition
A. What factors motivated the CONCACAF Champions League’s expansion?
After listening to fans, players, clubs, leagues, member associations, broadcasters and partners, it was determined that more teams competing internationally and an increased number of meaningful games were essential to all involved parties.
In response, CONCACAF developed a two-phase tournament that will ignite the passion of supporters, while simultaneously motivating clubs to utilize their top players.
The new structure ensures that the best of CONCACAF club football will be showcased at all times in a highly-competitive environment.
B. What are the changes?
Beginning with the 2017/18 edition, the expanded CONCACAF Champions League will feature 31 clubs – increased from 24 -- from the Confederation’s three sub-regions (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) – competing in two distinct phases.
The re-formatted competition, under a less congested schedule, will be contested in two phases: an August to October tournament, featuring qualified teams from Central America and the Caribbean; and a February to May championship, highlighting additional top clubs, including those in Liga MX and Major League Soccer.
The formats for both phases are identical: sixteen teams will be drawn into eight home-and-away fixtures. The winners, decided on aggregate goals, will advance to the quarterfinals, and the home-and-away knockout process continues until a champion is crowned.
The champion of the first phase will qualify directly to the second phase. There, that club will join 15 others: four qualifiers each from Mexico and the United States, the overall champions of Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, as well as the champion of the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship.
In addition to expansion, the new format will allow for enhanced development opportunities by broadening participation, while increasing the competitiveness and relevance of all matches through the seeding of participating teams.
C. How will teams be divided among the two phases?
The introduction of the new tournament opens the door to international competition for additional clubs from the Caribbean and Central America. The runner-up, third- and fourth-place teams from the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship, taking place in the first half of the year, will join 13 Central American qualifiers – two each from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama; and one from Belize.
Those sixteen teams will be drawn into eight, home-and-away fixtures. The winners, determined on aggregate goals, will advance to the quarterfinals, and the home-and-away knockout process continues through October, when a champion of the first phase is crowned.
The champion of the first phase will qualify directly for the second phase, scheduled from February to May of 2018. That club will join 15 others – four Mexico and the United States, one from Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, as well as the 2017 Caribbean Cup campion.
For Central American leagues hosting two, individual annual tournaments that yield two separate champions, the direct qualifier to the second phase of the CONCACAF Champions League will be determined by aggregate-point accumulation over both regular seasons.
D. How will places within the two phases be determined?
Places in the two phases will be based on the performances of member associations’ clubs over the nine-year history of the current CONCACAF Champions League. The ranking results will be revealed in the coming weeks.
E. Will there be more or less matches?
Each phase will consist of 30 matches for a total of 60 encounters, which is two less than the current 62. However, the vision is for every game to have significance. With a knockout format, the urgency to win will be greater than ever, which will produce exceptional levels of excitement.
The two finalists from each phase will end up playing eight games rather than the current 10. If the champion of the first phase advances to the final of the second phase, however, it will ultimately play in 16 matches.
F. What could be an overlooked benefit of this change?
An important aspect of the CONCACAF Champions League’s expansion and reformatting is that since the phases will start and end within the same season, the rosters will not change during the competition.
In the current format, the group stage takes place from August-October and then there’s a break until February. During that time, teams in Mexico and Central America may alter their squads in between Apertura and Clausura campaigns. Clubs from Major League Soccer will experience a three-month or longer offseason, which often results in significant roster modifications.
In addition, without a four-month break, fans will remain more engaged with the CONCACAF Champions League. This will allow the competition an opportunity to form a stronger bond with supporters.
G. How will the expanded and reformatted CONCACAF Champions League impact the Confederation’s participation in the FIFA Club World Cup?
CONCACAF’s participation in the FIFA Club World Cup will not change as a result of this restructuring. The second-phase champion will qualify for the Club World Cup.
H. Which clubs have experienced the most success in CONCACAF history?
Taking both the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League into account, Club America (Mexico) is the most successful CONCACAF club champion with seven titles, followed by Cruz Azul (six) and Pachuca (four). Mexican clubs have lifted the trophy 11 straight times, with Saprissa being the last non-Mexican champion in 2005.
I. Do you have some background on the CONCACAF Champions League’s history?
The current version of the Champions League was introduced for the 2008/09 season, replacing the Champions Cup, which had decided the Confederation's best team since 1962.
It features 24 squads from each of CONCACAF's three sub-regions -- North America, Central America and the Caribbean – and is played in two stages: the Group Stage and Knockout Stage. Berths are allocated by country or, in the case of the Caribbean, through a separate qualifying competition.
Throughout the Champions League’s first four years, 16 unseeded teams were paired off in a Preliminary Round. The winners joined eight seeded teams in the main 16-club Group Stage that was comprised of four groups of four teams.
In an effort to streamline and strengthen the competition, the CONCACAF Executive Committee approved changes to the format ahead of the 2012/13 edition. Those modifications called for all 24 qualifiers to be placed directly into the Group Stage, which was reconfigured to eight groups of three teams. That decision was based on the principles of eliminating excessive travel and reducing the number of matches that proved to have no impact on the final standings.
No club is allowed to be drawn into a group with one from its own country with the possible exception of a wildcard, which would qualify only if a representative from another CONCACAF-affiliated national association could not participate. Additionally, teams from the United States and Mexico cannot face each other in the Group Stage.
Only the group winners advance to the Knockout Stage, which consists of quarterfinals, semifinals and a final. In the quarterfinals, the group winner that completed the Group Stage with the best record will face the team with the eighth-best record from among the other group winners. In turn, two will play seven, three will play six, and four will face five. In the semifinals the winner of 1-vs-8 advances to meet the winner of 4-vs-5, while winners of 3-vs-6 and 2-vs-7 will square off against each other.
Atlante (Mexico) won the inaugural 2008/09 tournament, but Monterrey (Mexico) is the competition’s most successful, capturing a record three straight championships (2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13).