Sounders Insider

CONCACAF streamlines in Champions League

A day after the U.S. Open Cup tweeked its format, CONCACAF has done the same for its 2012-13 Champions League competition.

Sounders FC will resume play in the 2011-12 tournament, meeting Santos of Mexico in a March 7 quarterfinal. The club also qualified for the 2012-13 tournament by winning U.S. Open Cup. They also would have been allowed to skip the play-in round due to Los Angeles' double of U.S. Open Cup and Supporters Shield. However, that is now moot, as the play-in round has been eliminated.

Here's the release from the organization:

The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) announced today changes to the format of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Beginning with the2012/2013 edition, the fifth in the competition's history, the Preliminary Round will be eliminated and all 24 participating teams willenter the competition in the Group Stage. In the previous four tournaments, 16 teams met in eight Preliminary Round pairings with the series winners joining eight-seeded teams in the Group Stage.

"This newformat will streamline the first phase of the competition," said TedHoward, CONCACAF's acting general secretary. "It will alleviate schedule congestion on both domestic and international calendars."

Under the newstructure, the Group Stage will consist of eight groups of three teams.

The teams will be distributed into three categories for purposes of the draw as follows:

Category1: Mexico 1 & 2, USA 1 & 2, Costa Rica 1, Guatemala1, Honduras 1, Panama 1

Category2: Mexico 3 & 4, USA 3 & 4, Canada 1, Costa Rica 2, El Salvador 1, Honduras 2

Category3: Belize 1 (pending approval of suitable stadium), ElSalvador 2, Guatemala 2, Nicaragua 1, Panama 2, Caribbean Football Union 1,2 & 3

Teams from the samecountry cannot be drawn together unless one is a wildcard replacing a team from a country without a suitable venue. Additionally, there will be a team from Mexico or the USA in each of the eight groups.

The new Group Stage,comprised of 48 matches, will be played over six weeks instead of eight,starting on July 31 and ending by October25.

Only the eight group winners will advance to the Championship Round, which will remain unchanged with quarterfinal, semifinal and final series being played in a two-leg,home-and-home system. Under the current format, group winners and runners-up progressed to the knock-out phase.

The 2011/2012 Champions League resumes on March 6 with the start of quarterfinal play.

About CONCACAFCONCACAF “TheConfederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football” is one of six continental confederations of FIFA(Fédération Internationale de Football Association) andserves as the governing body of football in this part of the world. It iscomposed of 40 national associations, from Canada in the north to Guyana,Surinam and French Guyana in thesouth.