The Concacaf Champions League is getting a massive overhaul. Beginning in the fall of 2023, the tournament get a revamped format, including a bigger, but more regionalized group stage in the fall and a 16-team knockout round in the spring.
The expanded group stage in the fall will regionalize clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. North America will include 20 teams from Canada, Mexico and the U.S., with the teams split into four groups of five teams each. Each team will play a total of four group stage matches, two home and two away. The top two teams will advance from each group, along with three more teams that will qualify via a play-in round.
No word officially yet on how all the MLS teams will actually qualify for this tournament but there is a fun twist that we do know of thanks to the press release. The winner of the Leagues Cup, a secondary competition that recently began between Liga MX and MLS will see its winner earn an automatic big into the 20 team pool for North America.
ESPN has confirmed that two of the spots in the North America pool are reserved for Canadian Premier League teams and that Canada could ultimately end up with as many as five teams since the three MLS sides will qualify through MLS and not their country. Also, USL teams looking to crash the fun will have to do so by winning the US Open Cup. Which is totally lame.
Here is a quick look at how the entire field will appear:
The current format of the tournament that sees a knockout stage in the spring will be in effect for the 2021, 2022 and 2023 seasons.
So why the big change? Money is likely the reason. North America will get 11 of the 16 knockout stage spots, so there will be more chances for teams from MLS and Mexico to do well.
Also, if you are looking at a calendar just for the fun of it, this expanded format also means that there will be a ton more soccer to consume. Let’s say that FC Dallas has a killer 2022, wins MLS Cup or the Supporters’ Shield and qualifies for the 2023 tournament that takes place in the spring and then finds a way into the fall group stage (we don’t know how qualifying will work just yet so stay with us here). Between those two tournaments, the regular season, US Open Cup games, MLS playoffs, and whatever else gets tossed into the mix that we don’t know about, we could see FC Dallas play close to 50 games or more that year.
What do you make of this new format? Think it will help give MLS a way to win it? Or will it continue to help out the Liga MX sides?