Soccer 101: Concacaf Champions Cup

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Written by Zach Lowy

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In a groundbreaking Inaugural Season, St. Louis CITY SC shattered numerous records, etching their name in Major League Soccer history. Among their notable milestones, CITY SC became the first MLS team to clinch the No. 1 seed in their conference during a debut campaign, earning them a berth in their first-ever Concacaf Champions Cup – a tournament that will set the stage for further record-breaking moments.

Which MLS teams will play in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup?
Several MLS teams qualified for the tournament based on their regular season accomplishments. FC Cincinnati, who won the Supporters’ Shield after registering the most points in MLS, qualified for the tournament, while St. Louis automatically qualified after finishing atop the Western Conference. In addition, Orlando City and Columbus Crew booked their tickets as the next two best clubs in the Supporters’ Shield standings.

Houston Dynamo qualified after winning the U.S. Open Cup, whilst Vancouver Whitecaps also qualified after winning the Canadian Championship. Each of these teams booked their ticket to Round One, as well as Nashville SC and Philadelphia Union, who finished second and third in the Leagues Cup. Two teams have secured an automatic bye to the Round of 16: Inter Miami, who won the Leagues Cup, and the winners of the MLS Cup. (TBD)

Who else is competing in the tournament?
The 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup will be the first under a revised format featuring 27 teams and a five-round knockout phase and the first since being renamed from the Concacaf Champions League. Five of these teams have automatically qualified for the Round of 16, including Pachuca, who won the 2022/23 Liga MX Apertura, as well as the winners of the Caribbean Cup and the winners of the Central American Cup (TBD).

The other teams who will compete in Round One, including Tigres, who won the Clausura but had a lower aggregate table points total than Pachuca, as well as Toluca and Chivas, the runners-up in the Apertura and Clausura seasons. Monterrey and Club América complete the Mexican contingent as the two teams with the next highest points total in the 2022/23 Liga MX aggregate table, which takes into account both the Apertura and the Clausura.

A total of three Costa Rican sides in the tournament qualified due to their performances in the 2023 Concacaf Central American Cup including Saprissa, one of two play-in winners alongside Guatemalan club Comunicaciones, whilst Herediano and Panamanian club CAI booked their ticket as the semifinalists as well. Alajuelense and Nicaraguan side Real Estelí also advanced to Round One as the two finalists from the competition, whilst the Caribbean Cup finalists and third-placed side (TBD) will also compete in the tournament. Finally, two teams from the Canadian Premier League will vie for the trophy Forge FC, who won the league title, and Cavalry FC, who had the best regular season record.

When will the draw be held?
The draw will be held on December 13, 2023, whilst teams will be seeded based on their Concacaf Club Ranking as of December 11, 2023. This ranking formula replaces the Concacaf Club Index which was used in previous editions, as the five teams receiving byes to the Round of 16 and the top three ranked teams entering the First Round will be directly assigned positions in the bracket based on their Club Ranking, whilst the other 19 teams will be divided into two pots and then randomly drawn into positions.

When will the tournament take place?
The 2024 Champions Cup schedule commences before the start of the 2024 MLS season and spans a duration of four months. The competition features home-and-away series from Round One to the Semifinals, concluding with a single-leg Final on June 2.

Round One: February 6-8 (Week 1), February 13-15 (Week 2), February 20-22 (Week 3), and February 27-29 (Week 4)
Round of 16: March 5-7 (First Legs) and March 12-14 (Second Legs)
Quarterfinals: April 2-4 (First Legs) and 9-11 (Second Legs)
Semifinals: April 23-25 (First Legs) and April 30 - May 2 (Second Legs)
Final: June 2

What does the winner receive?
Unlike the UEFA Champions League, winning the competition does not guarantee an automatic spot in next year’s tournament: León, for example, will be unable to defend their title in 2024 after failing to qualify. There are nevertheless quite a few benefits for teams that make it far in the Concacaf Champions Cup. The winning team will receive more than $5 million in financial distributions and prize money, an increase of more than five times compared with the Concacaf Champions League era, which lasted from 2008 to 2023 and replaced the original Concacaf Champions Cup (1962-2008). The winner of the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup qualifies for the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup as one of four representatives from the region alongside the Champions League winners from 2021 (Monterrey), 2022 (Seattle Sounders), and 2023 (Club León).

There have been 30 different winners in the tournament’s 62-year history, including three MLS sides: D.C. United (1998), LA Galaxy (2000), and Seattle Sounders (2022). St. Louis CITY SC will be looking to make it four as they kick off their Concacaf Champions Cup journey in February.

How can I watch the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup?
Fans can watch the tournament through Concacaf’s TV partner networks including FOX Sports | Tubi (USA-English), TUDN | ViX (USA-Spanish), Fox Sports Mexico (Mexico-Spanish), ESPN | Star+ (Central America, Caribbean, and South America), and the Concacaf Official Platforms for all other territories (subject to territory restrictions).

Concacaf Champions Cup 2024