CCL 101


What is the CONCACAF Champions League?

The CONCACAF Champions League, CCL for short, is a 24-team tournament that crowns the club champion from the CONCACAF region, consisting of North & Central America and the Caribbean. It’s our version of Europe’s immensely popular, multimillion dollar generating UEFA Champions League— and it is very important.

How many teams from the U.S. get to participate in this tournament?

The United States is granted four berths.

How are the teams from the U.S. selected?

The winners of MLS Cup 2011 and the Supporters' Shield go into the group phase, as does the MLS Cup runner up and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup winner. By winning MLS Cup, the LA Galaxy received one of the berths, Seattle Sounders FC received another by capturing the U.S. Open Cup and Houston Dynamo earned the third birth by finishing the season as MLS Cup runner-up. Real Salt Lake received the fourth and final berth by finishing with the third best record in MLS behind the Galaxy and Sounders, who had already qualified for the tournament.

How is the rest of the field determined?

Canada receives one berth in the Champions League determined by the Amway Canadian Championship.

From Mexico, Apertura and Clausura champions and their runners-up are entered directly into the Group Stage.

The Caribbean is awarded three berths, determined by the CFU Club Champions Cup.

Central America comprises the largest contingent of teams in the Champions League, making up half of the 24-team field. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama are granted two berths each, and one each for Belize and Nicaragua.

What is the format of the tournament?

The 24 teams face off in eight groups of three-teams. The teams are seeded into three categories based on their country and berth. The series is determined from a draw, in order to ensure no two teams from the same country play each other in the Group Stage. Each match up will consist of two-leg home-and-home series. The eight Group Stage winners will advance to the Championship Stage.

The Championship Stage:

This stage consists of three rounds: Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Final. Eight teams will participate in the Championship Stage. The draw will be determined by the Group Stage records – the team with the best record will be paired with the team with the worst record, alternating between the following best and worst teams. (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5). The format for the Championship Stage is a two-leg home-and-home series with the winner being determined by aggregate goals. Teams from the same country may play each other in any round of the Championship Stage

The four Quarterfinal winners will advance to the Semifinals. The winners of the Semifinal Round will proceed to the Final Round. The team who wins the Final Round will be crowned winner of the CONCACAF Champions League.

When did the CONCACAF Champions League start?

The Champions League wasn’t always the Champions League. From 1962-2008, the tournament was called the CONCACAF Champions Cup. The Champions Cup underwent many format changes during its run, but became an eight-team, knockout tournament in 1997 when MLS teams were added to the mix. The Galaxy advanced to the final the first year they participated, but lost to Cruz Azul 5-3. Three years later in 2000, the Galaxy beat Olimpia of Honduras 3-2 to capture the first trophy in the club’s history. The Galaxy were the second team from MLS to win the tournament and the first to qualify for the Club World Cup, though the 2001 edition of that competition ended up being cancelled by FIFA due to financial reasons.

In 2008, after almost two years of proposals and meetings, the Champions League format was adopted. The first edition of the CONCACAF Champions League started in August 2008 and ended in May 2009. This year, the tournament started in July and will conclude in April 2013.

Have the Galaxy played in the CONCACAF Champions League before?

The Galaxy have qualified for the tournament seven times, four times when it was called the Champions Cup and now three for the Champions League. They reached the Champions Cup final twice, winning it all in 2000. This will be the third straight year in which the Galaxy play in the Champions League after being knocked out by the Puerto Rico Islanders in the Preliminary Round of the 2010-2011 Champions League. The Galaxy went on to win their group in the 2011-12 edition by defeating Morelia of Mexico, Alajuelense of Costa Rica and Motagua of Honduras.  However, the Galaxy were eliminated by Toronto FC in the Quarterfinals, falling 4-3 on aggregate.

Has any MLS team won CONCACAF Champions League before?

No MLS team has won the CONCACAF Champions League, since the implementation of the new CCL format. In April 2011, Real Salt Lake became the first team from MLS to advance to the CCL final, but they lost 3-2 to Monterrey on aggregate. The Galaxy are looking to go further.

Why is the tournament important?

National pride, the title of champion of CONCACAF and an invitation to the very-prestigious FIFA Club World Cup are all bestowed on the CCL winner. The FIFA Club World Cup is a tournament between the winners of the club champions from all six continental confederations (UEFA, CONMEBOL, AFC, CAF, OFC and CONCACAF).

Since 2005, the Club World Cup has become a staple of the international club calendar and its importance has been raised significantly with clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter Milan all winning the last three competitions, and cash prizes that range from $500,000 for the seventh place team to $5 million for the champion being handed out.

The winner of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League will participate in the 2013 Club World Cup which will be held in Morocco.

For further details about the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, read the 36-page CONCACAF Champions League Regulations document.