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CONCACAF Champions League: What is it?

So your team has qualified for some champions league? What next? Allow BDS to give you the lowdown on CONCACAF's club competition.

Club America celebrates it's 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League championship on April 29, 2015. The win gave America their 6th title in the competition.
Club America celebrates it's 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League championship on April 29, 2015. The win gave America their 6th title in the competition.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

After FC Dallas' win last Saturday night, the team clinched the top spot in the Western Conference, which in turn secured the team a place in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League. Let's take a basic look at what the CCL even is.

What Is It?

The CONCACAF Champions League is the North and Central American equivalent of the UEFA Champions League in Europe and the Copa Libertadores in South America.

Teams & Qualification

24 teams qualify for the competition, nine from the North American Zone, 12 from the Central American Zone and three from the Caribbean Zone.

We'll just focus on the North American Zone qualification since that's all the MLS is tied to.

Four berths are given to the United States and Mexico — more than any other CONCACAF nation — and one to Canada.

Here's how those berths are allocated (with 2016-17 CCL placement in mind):


The winners and runners up of both the Liga MX Apertura and Clausera tournaments each berths in the group stage

United States*:

The MLS Cup champion (if U.S.-based), the Supporter's Shield winner (if U.S.-based), the other regular season conference winner opposite of the Shield winner and U.S. Open Cup (Sporting Kansas City has already clinched this spot) go to the group stage as well.

*If any of those first three spots are taken by Canadian teams, the U.S.-based team with the best regular season record that failed to qualify is given that CCL spot.


The winner of the Canadian Champion is given the lone Canadian slot in the CCL, which Vancouver Whitecaps FC earned with their win over the Montreal Impact on August 12th-26th.

Competition Layout

All 24 teams are placed into eight groups with three teams each. Unless special circumstances are present, no team is in a group with another team from its own country. Additionally, no United States and Mexican teams are paired in the same group.

From there, the winners of each group advance to the Championship State, with has three rounds — quarterfinal, semifinal and final.

Quarterfinal match-ups:

The teams are seeded in the quarterfinal based on group stage performance so the best team will play the eighth-best team, the second-best will play the seventh-best and so on (much like the seeding in the NCAA basketball tournament).

Semifinal match-ups:

The 1-vs-8 winner plays the 4-vs-5 winner and the 2-vs-7 winner plays the 3-vs-6 winner.


The final consists of two-legs with the aggregate score deciding the tournament's champion.

The winner of the CONCACAF Champions League qualifies for a spot in the annual FIFA Club World Cup.

FC Dallas' History in the CCL

FC Dallas has only been in the CCL once before, 2011, after clinching a spot following the 2010 MLS season. Back then, Only eight teams automatically qualified for the group stage round, while the other eight played a preliminary round to move to the group stage. FC Dallas defeated El Salvadorian squad Alianza 2-0 on aggregate to advance to the group stage, where they were paired with Mexican squad Pumas, Toronto FC and Panamanian squad Tauro F.C.

The team won their first two games, including a 1-0 defeat of Pumas in Mexico City — which made them the first-ever MLS side to beat a Mexican team in Mexico. They tied their third but lost their final three to finish three points shy of a spot in the Championship Round.

By the time of the tournament's start, FC Dallas will be ending a four-year drought.