CONCACAF Champions League Introduction
Richard gives us all we need to know about the Champions League
Richard Terry
Aug 9th 2011

Last November, the Colorado Rapids won the 2010 MLS Cup. As league champions, the Rapids directly qualified for the 2011-2012 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). The purpose of this article is to inform people about the CCL and why it is the most important trophy within the North/Central America and Caribbean region.

However, lets begin with the basics:

CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football) is the continental governing body for soccer within the region. It also overseas the World Cup qualification process and Gold Cup Tournament for the national teams within the region. The CONCACAF Champions League is the annual professional club soccer tournament for teams within the CONCACAF region (North America, Central America, and the Caribbean).

Ok, moving on to the competition format:

The CONCACAF Champions League format features 24 teams total. Eight teams qualify directly for the Group Stages of the Tournament while 16 other clubs play in a preliminary phase. The eight winners of the preliminary phase join the other eight clubs in the Group Stage of the tournament. This includes 4 groups of four teams each.

Major League Soccer (MLS) represents the top-level of professional soccer within the United States and Canada. Currently, the league has 18 teams and will have 19 with the addition of Montreal Impact for the 2012 season. CONCACAF allows 4 teams from the United States and 1 from Canada for the tournament. Mexicos top division also includes 4 teams. This rounds out the North American teams for the tournament.

Central America includes 2 teams from Costa Rica, 2 teams from El Salvador, 2 teams from Guatemala, 2 teams from Honduras, 2 teams from Panama, 1 team from Nicaragua, and 1 team from Belize.

The Caribbean Zone includes 3 teams; however, the qualifying path is through the CFU Club Championship - a tournament within the Caribbean.

This next section is taken directly from Wikipedia, as it sums up the MLS qualifying routes quite nicely:

The four teams qualifying from the United States are the two MLS Cup finalists, the winner of the MLS Supporters Shield (awarded to the team with the best regular season record), and the winner of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Should the same team qualify multiple times and/or should a Canadian team occupy one or more of the MLS qualifying places, then the American MLS team(s) with the best regular season records not otherwise qualified will be entered.

The team qualifying from Canada is the winner of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

The MLS Clubs in this seasons Champions League:

Colorado Rapids (MLS Cup Champions)
FC Dallas (MLS Cup runner-up)
LA Galaxy (MLS Supporters Shield)
Seattle Sounders FC (Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Champion)
Toronto FC (Nutrilite Canadian Champions)

Here are the groups for the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League:

Group A
L.D. Alajuelense (CRC)
Los Angeles Galaxy (USA)
Monarcas Morelia (MEX)
Motagua (HON)

Group B
Colorado Rapids (USA)
Isidro Metapán (SLV)
Real España (HON)
Santos Laguna (MEX)

Group C
FC Dallas (USA)
UNAM Pumas (MEX)
Tauro FC (PAN)
Toronto FC (CAN)

Group D
C.S.D. Comunicaciones (GUA)
C.S. Herediano (CRC)
Monterrey (MEX)
Seattle Sounders FC (USA)

Within the groups, each team plays each other twice: home and away. The format includes 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie, and zero points for a loss. The top two teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals. The knockout round of the competition includes two-legs to be played all the way to the final, where the matches are home and away. The aggregate scoreline declares the winner, with away goals determining tied aggregate scores. However, if both teams have the same amount of away goals, the match will go into extra time and possibly penalty kicks.

The winner of the CONCACAF Champions League is awarded with a trip to the annual FIFA Club World Cup. This features the best clubs in the world, including winners of the UEFA Champions League (Europe), Copa Libertadores (South America), and the other continental tournaments.

And finally...

The 2010-2011 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League saw Mexican club Monterrey defeat Real Salt Lake 3-2 on aggregate. RSL scored two away goals in Mexico for a 2-2 draw but were defeated 1-0 by a Humberto Suazo goal at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Monterrey will represent the CONCACAF region and play in the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

BSG member Richard Terry writes for Global Football Today, please visit his blog at http://colorado.globalfootballtoday.com.

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