CONCACAF has announced a change to the format of its Champions League, which will now be split into two different competitions and have the region's biggest clubs advance directly to a knockout phase that will run from February to May.
Beginning in August 2017, 16 clubs from Central America and the Caribbean will participate in a new tournament which will end in October. The winner of that tournament will qualify to the knockout phase of the CCL, which will begin in February 2018 and feature 16 clubs.
The CCL round of 16 will feature 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. The competition will then proceed in a knockout format with home-and-away fixtures all the way through the final.
“The expansion of the CONCACAF club competitions platform to 31 clubs is an important step forward in the Confederation’s efforts to include more Member Association representation and increase participation at the highest levels of our competitions,” CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani said in a news release.
“The continued growth of club competition in CONCACAF is representative of the strengthening of the sport throughout the region, and along with the new format for the Champions League, provides the base for a formidable club championship structure that will entertain and engage fans region-wide for years to come.”
The new format means the region's biggest teams will no longer have to participate in the CCL group stage in the fall. While MLS clubs will see fixtures reduced, they will still be forced to play knockout-round fixtures during their preseason.