|Region||North America, Central America, and the Caribbean|
|Number of teams||27 (2024)|
|Qualifier for||FIFA Club World Cup|
|Current champion(s)|| León|
|Most successful club(s)|| América|
|Television broadcasters||CONCACAF (YouTube)|
|2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup|
The CONCACAF Champions Cup (previously known as the CONCACAF Champions League) is an annual continental club football competition organized by CONCACAF. The tournament is contested by clubs from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. The winner of the CONCACAF Champions Cup automatically qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup.
The tournament currently uses a knockout format; it had a group stage prior to the 2018 competition. Unlike its European and South American counterparts, the winner of the CONCACAF Champions Cup does not automatically qualify for the following season's competition.
The title has been won by 29 clubs, 14 of which have won the title more than once. Mexican clubs have accumulated the highest number of victories, with 38 titles in total. The second most successful league has been Costa Rica's Primera División, with six titles in total. Mexican side América are the most successful club in the competition's history, with seven titles. The most successful non-Mexican club is Saprissa of Costa Rica, with three titles. The only four teams to successfully defend the trophy are all Mexican: América, Cruz Azul, Pachuca and Monterrey. The current champions of the competition are León, who defeated Los Angeles FC in the 2023 final.
Each round of competition consists of a two-leg home-and-away series with the winner determined by aggregate goals over both legs. If aggregate goals are equal, the away goals rule is applied. If away goals are also equal, the game is decided by an immediate penalty shoot-out; there are no overtime periods.
Prior to 2018, the tournament had two parts: a group stage held from August to October, and a knockout phase held from March to May of the following year. The group stage consisted of 24 teams playing in eight groups of three teams each, with each team playing the other two teams in its group twice. United States and Mexican sides could not be drawn into the same group. The winners of each of the eight groups advanced to the quarterfinals. Each phase of the knockout rounds (quarterfinals, semifinals, finals) consisted of a two-leg home-and-away series with the winner determined by aggregate goal differential. Seeding in the knockout phase was determined by performance during the group stage.
Prior to the 2012–13 season, the competition had involved four groups of four, with one Mexican team and one U.S. team in each group. A preliminary round was used to reduce the number of teams from 24 to 16.
Champions' Cup era (1962–2008)
Prior to 2008, the tournament was called the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, but was usually referred to simply as the Champions' Cup. The competition was initially created as a possible measure to enter the South American Copa Libertadores, a competition organized by CONMEBOL. The competition had several different formats over its lifetime. Initially, only the champions of the North American leagues participated. In 1971, the runners-up of a few North American leagues began to join and the tournament began to be expanded, incorporating round-robin group phases and more teams.
Initial formats (1962–1996)
During the opening rounds of the tournament, teams would compete within one of three regional zones: North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Typically the winner of one zone would receive a bye to the Champions' Cup final while the winner of the other two zones would compete in a semifinal. From 1981, the North and Central American zones were usually combined meaning that the winner of the joint zone would face the winner of the Caribbean zone in the final. From 1993 to 1996, three clubs from the North/Central American zone and one club from the Caribbean zone qualified for the final round of the tournament which was held in a central location.
Knockout formats (1997–2008)
After the creation of the United States' Major League Soccer, the competition became an eight-team knockout tournament with zonal qualification. The first four editions were hosted in a central location with single leg ties before changing to a home-and-away format in 2002. Four North American zone clubs qualified from Liga MX or Major League Soccer, three Central American clubs from the UNCAF Interclub Cup, and one Caribbean club from the CFU Club Championship. In 2002 and 2003, the tournament consisted of 16 teams with twice as many qualifying from each zone. Since 2005, the champion of the competition gained entry into the FIFA Club World Cup, giving clubs an added incentive for a strong participation and greater interest from fans.
Champions League era (2008–2023)
At their 2006 November meeting, the CONCACAF Executive Committee decided to "act upon" a proposal at their next meeting by the CONCACAF Secretariat to develop the CONCACAF Champions' Cup into a larger "Champions League" style event. On 14 November 2007, the CONCACAF Executive Committee reported some of the details.
Initial format: preliminary round and group stage (2008–2012)
The last eight-team Champions' Cup format was used as planned in March and April 2008. Then, a newly expanded 24-team Champions League tournament was conducted starting in August 2008 and concluding in May 2009. The expanded tournament meant that Central American clubs would qualify directly and thus the UNCAF Interclub Cup was ended after 2007.
In the new Champions League tournament, there was a two-legged preliminary round for 16 clubs, with the eight winners advancing to the group stage. They were joined by the other eight teams who qualified directly to the group stage. The clubs involved in the group stage were placed into four groups of four with each team playing the others in its group in both home and away matches. The top two teams from each group advanced to quarterfinals of the knockout rounds, which consisted of two-legged ties. The final round was also two-legged. Also, unlike the previously contested CONCACAF Champions' Cup, the away goals rule is used in the CONCACAF Champions League, but does not apply after a tie goes into extra time.
Elimination of the preliminary round (2012–2017)
On January 12, 2012, CONCACAF announced that the 2012–13 tournament would be played under a different format than previous editions, where the preliminary round is eliminated and all qualified teams enter the group stage. In the group stage, the 24 teams are drawn into eight groups of three, with each group containing one team from each of the three pots. The allocation of teams into pots are based on their national association and qualifying berth. Teams from the same association (excluding "wildcard" teams which replace a team from another association) cannot be drawn with each other in the group stage, and each group is guaranteed to contain a team from either the United States or Mexico, meaning U.S. and Mexican teams cannot play each other in the group stage. Each group is played on a home-and-away round-robin basis. The winners of each group advance to the quarterfinal round of the championship stage.
In the championship stage, the eight teams play a single-elimination tournament. Each tie is played on a home-and-away two-legged basis. The away goals rule is used if the aggregate score is level after normal time of the second leg, but not after extra time, and so a tie is decided by penalty shoot-out if the aggregate score is level after extra time of the second leg. Unlike previous years where a second draw was conducted to set the pairings for the championship stage, the bracket is determined by the teams' record in the group stage. The quarterfinals match the team with the best record against the team with the worst record, while the second-best team faces the seventh-best, third against sixth and fourth against fifth. The top four teams play the second leg at home. In the semifinals, the winner of 1-vs-8 faces the winner of 4-vs-5, with the 1-vs-8 winner hosting the second leg, and likewise 2-vs-7 plays 3-vs-6, with the 2-vs-7 winner hosting the second leg. In the finals, the team that prevails out of the upper bracket of 1-8-4-5 hosts the second leg. This means that the higher-seeded team does not necessarily host the second leg in the semifinals and finals.
Introduction of CONCACAF League and elimination of group stage (2018–2023)
In December 2016, Manuel Quintanilla, president of the Nicaraguan Football Federation, spoke of a possible new format for the competition, a statement that was later corroborated by Garth Lagerwey, the general manager of Seattle Sounders FC. On 23 January 2017, CONCACAF confirmed the new 16-team format beginning with the 2018 edition, eliminating the group stage which had been employed since the re-branding of the competition to the CONCACAF Champions League in 2008.
Under the new CONCACAF competition platform, a new secondary tournament called CONCACAF League would be played from August to December beginning in 2017. The winner of CONCACAF League would qualify to the following year's Champions League where they would be joined by nine North American teams, the Caribbean Club Championship winner, and five Central American league champions who qualified directly. For the 2019–20 competition cycle, the direct Central American berths were removed and CONCACAF League was expanded so that the top-six clubs would qualify to Champions League.
The CONCACAF Champions League under this format had four rounds – round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and a final – with each being a home-and-away two-legged basis with the away goals rule. However, beginning in 2019, the away goals rule would not be applied for the final round.
Second Champions Cup era (from 2024)
In February 2021, CONCACAF announced a major overhaul of the tournament which would have included 50 teams and a regional group stage. Twenty teams from North America, twenty teams from Central America, and ten teams from the Caribbean would have been divided into groups of five teams where a total of 16 teams would advance to the knockout stage. This format was abandoned and was never used.
In September of that year, CONCACAF announced an expansion of the tournament to begin in 2024. The tournament will retain the all-knockout format used since 2018 but will now consist of five rounds and 27 teams participating:
- 6 Liga MX clubs
- 5 MLS clubs
- 2 Canadian Premier League clubs
- 1 U.S. Open Cup winner
- 1 Canadian Championship winner
- 3 Leagues Cup clubs
- 6 Central America Cup clubs
- 3 Caribbean Cup clubs
Twenty-two clubs will enter the tournament in Round One while five clubs (the winners of MLS Cup, Liga MX, Leagues Cup, Central American Cup, and Caribbean Cup) receive byes to the round of 16.
Teams may qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League through their domestic leagues or cups, or through their regional cup competitions: the Leagues Cup for teams from North America, the Central American Cup for teams from Central America, and a CONCACAF Caribbean Cup for teams from the Caribbean. All matches will include home and away series between the first round to the semi-finals, with the final being a single match at a neutral site. The CONCACAF League would also cease in 2022 with this new format.
On 6 June 2023, it was announced that to coincide with the new format, the competition had been renamed back to CONCACAF Champions Cup.
If a club fails to meet the standards for its home stadium, the club must find a suitable stadium in its own country, and if the club fails to provide the adequate facilities, it runs the risk of being replaced by another team. Real Esteli of Nicaragua failed stadium requirements and was replaced by another team for the 2009–10 and 2010–11 seasons. Estadio Independencia in Nicaragua has since been renovated, including upgrades to stadium lighting, and Nicaraguan teams now participate. The qualifying team from Belize failed stadium requirements and was replaced by another team in each season from 2009–10 through 2014–15.
On 8 April 2015, Mexican side Club América broke the all time CONCACAF Champions League match attendance record when a reported 66,208 spectators gathered at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City to watch América play Costa Rican club Herediano in the second leg of the semifinals of the 2015 edition of the tournament. This was surpassed by the Seattle Sounders FC on 4 May 2022, at Lumen Field in the final against UNAM with an announced attendance of 68,741.
Starting with the 2024 edition of the competition, the winning club will receive over US$5,000,000 in prize money and financial distributions. In addition, the winning club qualifies for the FIFA Club World Cup, which includes additional prize money.
In 2022, the prize money paid to clubs was as follows:
- Winner: $500,000
- Runner-up: $300,000
- Semifinalists: $200,000
Trophy and medals
Each year, the winning team is presented with the CONCACAF Champions League trophy. The current trophy design was introduced in 2018.
The CONCACAF Champions Cup has several corporate sponsors: Scotiabank (which was a title sponsor of the Champions League from 2014–15 until 2023), Miller Lite, MoneyGram, Maxxis Tires, and Nike. The sponsors' names appear on the boards around the perimeter of the field, and boards for pre-game and post-game interviews and press conferences. Nike is also the official provider of game balls and referee uniforms.
|United States||Fox Sports||English|
|Univision • TUDN||Spanish|
The CONCACAF Champions Cup broadcast is also available in South America in all languages on ESPN (Star+) and globally in English through Concacaf GO.
Since the inaugural edition of the CONCACAF Champions League, the finals have only ever been contested by clubs from Mexico, United States or Canada. The first 14 were won by Mexican clubs. The most recent final was contested by León and Los Angeles FC, won by the former 3–1 on aggregate.
Records and statistics
Performances by club
* When sorted by years won or lost, the table is sorted by the year of each team's most recent inaugural win or loss.
Performances by nation
|Trinidad and Tobago||2†||3||5|
†Including one title shared.
- FIFA Club World Cup
- CONCACAF Champions League U13
- CONCACAF Cup Winners' Cup
- CONCACAF Giants Cup
- CONCACAF League
- Continental football championships
- Interamerican Cup
- Leagues Cup
- North American SuperLiga
- List of association football competitions
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- Payne, Dave (29 January 1995). "Region's best in San Jose; Champs of 4 nations at Spartan Stadium". The Mercury News. p. D24.
- "Watch". CONCACAF.com.
- "sportdigital Soccer Schedule". livesoccertv.com.