February 12 – Concacaf is to expand the Concacaf League from 16 to 22 clubs, including five additional Central American clubs and one Canadian Premier League club, from 2019 onwards. The new format will also shift the Champions League qualification with six teams from the competition entering the main tournament.
In 2017 Concacaf introduced the league competition to increase competition between Caribbean and Central American clubs and provide a qualification route to the Champions League. With expansion to 22 teams comes increased qualification slots for the Champions League from one to six.
“We are very excited to take a major step forward to enhance our expanded Concacaf Club Competition Platform,” said Concacaf general secretary Philippe Moggio.
“We are creating a larger Scotiabank Concacaf League that will increase the opportunities for our members in the Caribbean and Central America to play more relevant, competitive matches. With 22 teams participating, the window of access is wider, providing greater chances to qualify to the region’s premier tournament for clubs, the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.”
But the new league may not be welcome news for Central American teams who will now be forced to qualify for the Champions League by way of the CONCACAF League, the second-tier competition. In the current format five of their clubs enjoy direct qualification to the Champions League. Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador each have one berth for the main tournament. In the new format those five countries could have no representatives at all in the Champions League or may find they have two or three teams.
Costa Rica has two teams in the 2019 Champions League with Saprissa as domestic champions and Herediano in the tournament as the 2018 Concacaf League winner. In 2020 they might well have three teams in the Champions League.
The Concacaf League’s expansion will see the tournament add a preliminary round with 12 clubs playing a home-and-away series. Among those 12 will be an entrant from Canada.
The Canadian champions will qualify automatically for the Champions League alongside four MLS teams, four Liga MX teams, the Caribbean Club Championship winner and the six teams from the CONCACAF League.
At the end of the league, all the clubs will be ranked and the top five clubs, behind the champions, will also secure a berth in the Champions League.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1563220384labto1563220384ofdlr1563220384owedi1563220384sni@o1563220384fni1563220384