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CONCACAF restructures Champions League with focus on knock-outs

If you’re CONCACAF, you can never have too much change. Here’s the latest big one.

MLS: CONCACAF Champions League-Tigres UANL at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Did you like the latest iteration of the CONCACAF Champions League? You know the one — it has a group stage with three-team groups.

Yeah, it’s gone, and there’s a new structure in its place.

There’s no group stage now, but there’s a qualifying tournament that will add a single member to the final 16-stage CONCACAF Champions League. Four teams from the United States will make it to the final stage, as will four from Mexico. A host of others make it, too — see below.

But now, rather than playing several times in the group stage, you’re basically thrust into what CONCACAF is calling a “direct-elimination format” — so, a single-elimination tournament, albeit one where each leg is contested home and away. (Did you know that ‘direct elimination’ is most often used to describe fencing tournament brackets?✨)

31 teams, one winner

Qualifying tournament: 16 teams

  • Qualifying tournament for teams from Central America and the Caribbean, with the champion progresses to CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League: 16 teams

  • Four U.S. teams — MLS Cup, Supporters Shield, opposing conference winner, U.S. Open Cup winner
  • Four Mexican teams — Champion and runners-up in Apertura, Clausura
  • Five champions of Central American leagues — Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador
  • Caribbean Club Championship winner
  • Canadian Cup winner
  • Qualifying tournament winner

How are teams seeded?

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.

I want to know more

Trust me, so do we. Not that it matters right now. Sigh. Here are a couple reads from CONCACAF itself. You know, the horse’s mouth.