Countries and sub-regions will be assigned to participate in each of the two tournaments based on a competition index created by CONCACAF, which takes into account regional and national leagues’ success in the Champions League over the past nine seasons, since the group phase format was introduced.
To increase the overall amount of relevant games for fans and clubs and compact the championship schedule to avoid over-burden on club teams’ schedules, fixtures for both championships will now be contested in home-and-away, direct elimination format. The new Champions League format replaces the previous group-stage-followed-by-knockout-rounds setup which was introduced in 2008.
The initial edition of the newly added championship for Central American and Caribbean qualifiers opens the door to international competition for additional clubs from those regions.
For the new club tournament set to be introduced, and scheduled from August to October for the upcoming 2017/18 edition, the runner-up, third, and fourth place teams from the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship
, taking place in the first half of the year throughout the Caribbean, will join 13 qualifiers from across the Central American region – 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 of the first round series, determined on aggregate goals, will advance to the quarterfinals, and the home-and-away knockout process continues through October with semifinals and a home-and-away Grand Final, when a champion is crowned.
The champion of the new club tournament will qualify directly for the Champions League, to be played between February and May of 2018. There, that club will join 15 others – four qualifiers each from Mexico and the United States, the champion of the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship, the Canadian champion, and the overall champions of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
In the case of Central American leagues hosting two, divided annual tournaments which yield two, different champions, the direct qualifier to the CONCACAF Champions League will be determined by aggregate point accumulation over the two tournaments.
The format of the new Champions League will mirror the first tournament, with eight home-and-away knockout pairings kicking off four rounds, culminating in the home-and-away Grand Final of the CONCACAF Champions League, which provides the Confederation champion with a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The league’s compact new design and dual-tournament format means all of the Confederation’s teams will be able to contest a full championship in a time period fully within one league season, so clubs can take home a trophy while beginning and ending a Champions League phase with the same group of players.
Clubs that have already qualified for the 2017/18 edition of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League maintain guaranteed participation in one of the two tournaments of the upcoming club championship season; which tournament is decided based on aggregate results and the indexing of the respective leagues.
Further information on the new CONCACAF club competitions platform and Champions League format will be revealed in coming weeks. The draw for CONCACAF’s newest tournament addition to the club competition calendar will be held in late May.