Canada to play in Champions League

CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football) announced today the official launch of the new continental club championship, the CONCACAF Champions League, which will commence in August 2008. The CONCACAF Champions League will replace the Champions’ Cup, which will cease to exist after the 2008 edition.

The CONCACAF Champions League will feature a representative from Canada for the first time in CONCACAF history. In addition to Canada, there will be four teams each from both Mexico and USA; three sides from the Caribbean; two clubs each from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama; and one representative each coming from Belize and Nicaragua.

“We are very excited about the fact that a Canadian team will have a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League,” said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi. “As you know, the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC formed a strategic alliance last October and one of our objectives remains to play matches against each other throughout the 2008 season.

“We feel, more than ever, that this is a terrific opportunity to stage an exciting tournament, showcasing the top professional clubs in the country. To that effect, we are accelerating our discussions and we are confident we will be able to make an announcement in the upcoming weeks.”

The CONCACAF Champions League will see a Confederation record number of 24 teams from all sectors of the CONCACAF region participating. The preliminary round begins in August 2008, with the first CONCACAF Champions League winner to be crowned in late April 2009.

Eight clubs (two Mexican, two USA, and one each from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador) will be seeded and progress directly to the first round of the CONCACAF Champions League, while the Caribbean spots have been increased to three teams for this event.

The remaining 16 teams will be paired in eight home-and-away preliminary match-ups taking place from 26-28 August and 2-4 September.

The preliminary round winners will join the other eight seeded teams in the group stage, which will consist of four groups of four. All the teams in each group will play each other in a round-robin system during six match dates (three home games, three away games) from 16 September – 30 October.

The top two clubs from each group will advance to the knockout phase, where they will play home-and-away elimination ties. The quarterfinals will commence in February 2009, with the semifinals to begin in March and the two-leg final set for late April.

The CONCACAF Champions League winner will qualify as CONCACAF’s representative for the 2009 edition of the FIFA Club World Cup.

2008-09 CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Calendar of Events
2008
End July: All qualification completed, draw for preliminary round
26-28 August: Preliminary Round, First legs
2-4 September: Preliminary Round, Second legs
Early September: Group Stage Schedule Announced
16-18 September: Group Stage – Match Day 1
23-25 September: Group Stage – Match Day 2
30 September – 2 October: Group Stage – Match Day 3
7-9 October: Group Stage – Match Day 4
21-23 October: Group Stage – Match Day 5
28-30 October: Group Stage – Match Day 6

2009
24-26 February: Quarterfinals, First legs
3-5 March: Quarterfinals, Second legs
17-19 March: Semifinals, First legs
7-9 April: Semifinals, Second legs
21-23 April: Final, First leg
28-30 April: Final, Second leg
December: FIFA Club World Cup

About CONCACAF
CONCACAF is one of six continental confederations of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and serves as the governing body for football (soccer) in this part of the world. It is composed of 40 national associations, from Canada in the north to Guyana, Surinam and French Guyana in the south.