MLS clubs get a Champions League

CONCACAF yesterday made official what had been known for months, that starting next August, a 24-team Champions League tournament will replace the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney explains the format.

The breakdown is thus: four teams each from Mexico and the United States; three from the Caribbean nations; two each from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, and one apiece for Canada, Belize and Nicaragua.

Eight teams will be seeded, with the other 16 playing two-game preliminary series to determine which will advance to the group phase. Four groups of four teams will play home and away, with the top two finishers advancing to a series of two-game, knockout series in the quarterfinals, semifinals and final.

Preliminary round play begins in late August, which may conflict with the SuperLiga competition. Two MLS teams will be among the 16 competing in this phase but there's been no official announcement of which two teams.

The tournament is scheduled to conclude in April, 2009, with the winner advancing to the FIFA Club World Cup the following December.

In the final phase of the current Champions' Cup, eight teams are drawn into brackets to play a series of two-game, knockout series to determine the regional club champion.

Houston and D.C. United are the MLS entrants and have been paired with CSD Municipal (Guatemala) and Harbour View (Jamaica), respectively, for the quarterfinals that commence March 11.

"The Champions' League is the logical next step for CONCACAF and its member associations," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "By building on the recent commercial and sporting successes of the Gold Cup as well as the growing USA v. Mexico rivalry, CONCACAF has started a competition that will quickly grow in recognition and respect; with a spot in the World Club Championship at stake, the teams will take it very seriously."

 

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