The CONCACAF Champions League will get a revamped format starting in late 2023, including a bigger, but more regionalized group stage in the fall and a 16-team knockout round in the spring.
The expanded group stage in the fall will regionalize clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. North America will include 20 teams from Canada, Mexico and the U.S., with the teams split into four groups of five teams each. Each team will play a total of four group stage matches, two home and two away. The top two teams will advance from each group, along with three more teams that will qualify via a play-in round.
The current format of the CONCACAF Champions League will remain in place for the 2021, 2022 and 2023 editions. In 2023 it will be a transition year with the last edition under the current format played in the spring, prior to the group stage of the new format commencing in the fall.
“This is a hugely important development for CONCACAF and for club football in our region. The CONCACAF Champions League has grown impressively in recent years, but this new format will transform the competition and significantly increase its relevance throughout our confederation and globally,” said CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president, Victor Montagliani.
“It will elevate clubs and leagues throughout CONCACAF with more exciting regional matchups that we know fans want to see. It will also provide a very competitive pathway to the FIFA Club World Cup as clubs from our region strive to succeed on the international stage”
Montagliani said he was not worried about possible fixture congestion in North America in the fall, and that both Liga MX and MLS were on board with the changes.
“It was not so much a hard sell. I think [MLS and Liga MX] were supportive right from the get go,” he said. “We have already gotten that sort of agreement and sign-off by all the leagues, in all our regions, including MLS, Liga MX, the Canadian League, because if you look at the format of our group stage, we’ve actually done in a very creative way, because they’re all meaningful games.
“And the MLS knows that their relevancy now — they’ve had tremendous growth over the last 25 years — but they need to take the next stage where the next stage for them is international relevancy. And this is going to be done in the [CCL].”
At least three of the 20 clubs from North America will hail from Canada, with two teams coming from the Canadian Premier League and another from the Canadian Championship. The three Canadian teams currently playing in MLS could also qualify through MLS competitions.
Twenty clubs from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama will comprise the Central American group. The teams will qualify through performance in domestic leagues as well as a new Central American Cup competition. The teams will be grouped into four groups of five. The top two finishers in each group will advance to a play-in round from which four teams will advance to the final 16.
The Caribbean group will be made up of 10 clubs, eight of which will qualify directly through professional leagues, while the remaining two through a Caribbean Cup competition. The two group winners will qualify for a play-in match, the winner of which will qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage.
At least one qualifier to revamped CCL will be through Leagues Cup.
Montagliani added: “We are also very excited by the prospect of new Central American and Caribbean Cup competitions as part of this new ecosystem. They will provide great matchups between rival clubs and will further drive development of the club game within the respective regions.”
The Central American cup competition will replace the CONCACAF League.