Official Launch of the New Champions League Announced

By: Julie Smith

Soccer's North and Central American as well as the Caribbean governing body was looking for something new to bring excitement to the region and apparently they finally found the solution. The CONCACAF worked for a whole year in a project to announce the new image of the regional soccer; the CONCACAF Champions League will officially launch the new continental club championship to start in August 2008.

The new model appears as an attempt to create a world class competition in the area as an answer to the gap between the soccer tournaments around the world. While Europe has its own Champions League, South Africa has the Copa Libertadores and North America has the well known MLS; the Central America and the Caribbean region teams were playing a very basic tournament which undeniable was losing its interest through the years.

The ambitious plan pretends to have 24 teams from all sectors of the CONCACAF region; four teams of United States, Mexico and the Caribbean along with two from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, plus one team from Belize, Canada and Nicaragua.

With a format consisting in eight teams seeded directly to the first round: two each from the United States and Mexico, and one a piece from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The other 16 playing home and home series in a preliminary round in late August and early September.

Four groups of four teams will compete in the first round in September and October, with the top two clubs from each group advancing to the knockout phase playing home-and-away elimination matches. The quarterfinals will begin in February '09; semifinals begin in March; and the finals will take place in late April. The champion, to be crowned in April of 2009, will represent CONCACAF at the FIFA Club World Cup 2009 in December.

The CONCACAF Champions League will replace the Champions Cup which will cease to exist after the 2008 edition. "The Champions' League is the logical next step for CONCACAF and its member associations" said U.S Soccer President Sunil Gulati, according to him "The CONCACAF has started a competition that will quickly grow in recognition and respect; with a spot in the World Club Championship at stake, the teams will take it very seriously."

Hopefully, the new format of the tournament will fulfill the expectations of the soccer players and more important will capture its fans' interest. Because expansion is not always a good idea, it needs more organization, a lot more effort and of course a lot of money.

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