By Samindra Kunti
October 12 – Brazil will be the biggest winner of CONMEBOL’s decision to expand its top club competition, the Copa Libertadores, by six teams. Brazil will have two more representatives in the expanded competition, the South American equivalent of the Champions League.
The decision will take effect from 2017 onwards and will see an extension of the season to accommodate the extra teams. In total, Brazil will have seven representatives in the Copa Libertadores: the top six in the domestic league and the winner of the Copa do Brasil, the Brazilian Cup, will qualify for the competition.
If the Brazilian top-flight were to end today, Atletico Paranaense, in sixth, and Rio-based Fluminense, in seventh, would be the big beneficiaries of the new regulation.
Chile, Colombia and Argentina will also have more representatives in the Copa Libertardores. They will all get an additional spot. The winner of the Copa Sul-Americana, South America’s Europa League, will gain direct entry into the competition as well.
The new rules will see 44 clubs participating in the 2017 edition, up from 38 teams.
CONMEBOL has been facing a similar battle to UEFA with conflict with its top clubs over prize money. In January, a number of clubs had threatened to withdraw from the competition due to a disagreement over prize money. CONMEBOL had offered a 40% increase, but the clubs wanted a 150% increase. Finally, the governing body announced that prize money would be doubled from the 2015 edition.
The 2017 competition will start in February and run until November. This season the Copa Libertadores ended in July with Atletico Nacional from Colombia and Independiente del Valle from Ecuador disputing the final. The Colombians prevailed 2-1 on aggregate. The two-legged final is another competition issue that CONMEBOL has said it may revise in the future.
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