CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football [Ed. Note: and the Guyanas]) has announced changes to its prestigious club tournament. The Champions League will now be played in two separate tournaments, from August to October for the preliminary phase and from February to May for the final phase. The group phase has been completely scrapped, leaving home-and-away series on aggregate goals the preferred format for each round.
The preliminary tournament
From August to October, 16 clubs from Central American and Caribbean leagues will fight for a spot in the final phase. While the champions from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama are directly qualified for the main tournament, leaving two spots for the runners-up and third-placed team to enter the preliminary phase, Nicaragua’s champion and runner-up enter the competition at this first stage, as do the champions of Belize and the runners-up and losing semi-finalists of the Caribbean Club Championship. These 16 teams face each other from the round of 16 in home-and-away series on aggregate goals, the last one standing entering the main phase of the tournament.
The main tournament
Starting in February until May, the Champions League main tournament includes, from the round of 16, the champions and runners-up of the Liga MX apertura (first half of the season) and clausura (second half of the season), the Canadian champion of the Voyageurs’ Cup, the American MLS Cup champion, the American MLS Cup finalist, the American Supporters’ Shield winner, the US Open Cup champion, the champions of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, the Caribbean Club Championship winner and the last team standing in the Champions League preliminary tournament. It is worth repeating that Canadian clubs cannot qualify for the Champions League through their MLS involvement and results.
As always, the Champions League winner will obtain its berth for the FIFA Club World Cup, played in December every year.