What is the CONCACAF Champions Cup? 2024 name change for North American competition featuring Messi’s Inter Miami

Lionel Messi’s hot start to his Inter Miami career has the Argentinian already paying dividends for his new club.

With their advancement to the 2023 Leagues Cup final, Messi has helped Inter Miami qualify for next year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup, one of multiple trophies that Messi suddenly and miraculously has Inter Miami in the mix for.

Major League Soccer clubs have not traditionally fared well in continental competition, but are showing signs of increased competitiveness with Liga MX foes.

The Sporting News brings you a full review of how the CONCACAF Champions Cup works, who qualifies for the tournament in 2024, and its history.

What is the CONCACAF Champions Cup?

The CONCACAF Champions Cup is the North American continental club championship, or the equivalent of Europe’s UEFA Champions League. 

Established in 1962, the competition was known as the CONCACAF Champions League from 2008 to 2023. With the 2024 tournament on the horizon, the North and Central American confederation decided to revive the old name once again, breaking from its sister competitions in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

For the 2024 tournament, the competition will expand to 27 teams participating. 

Who qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions Cup?

The CONCACAF Champions Cup is meant to compile all the top clubs in North and Central America from the previous year into one knockout tournament, which crowns a continental club champion.

As it has been since its inception, the tournament is a straight knockout bracket, with no group stage to start things off.

While recent years featured 16 teams in the knockout tournament, the 2024 competition will expand to 27. Five champions of various competitions will earn a bye to the Round of 16, while everyone else enters the tournament in the first round.

Nation/League Qualified Via Round Entered 2024 Qualifier
Liga MX Apertura/Clausura Champions
(with higher aggregate points)
Round of 16 Pachuca
Liga MX Apertura/Clausura Champions
(with lower aggregate points)
First Round Tigres UNAL
Liga MX Apertura runner-up First Round Toluca
Liga MX Clausura runner-up First Round Chivas Guadalajara
Liga MX Next-best club in agg. table First Round Monterrey
Liga MX Next-best club in agg. table First Round Club America
MLS MLS Cup Champions Round of 16 TBD
MLS MLS Supporters’ Shield winner First Round FC Cincinnati
MLS MLS other Conference winner First Round St. Louis City SC
MLS Next-best club in agg. table First Round Orlando City SC
MLS Next-best club in agg. table* First Round Columbus Crew SC
MLS U.S. Open Cup winner First Round Houston Dynamo
LigaMX/MLS Leagues Cup winner Round of 16 Inter Miami
LigaMX/MLS Leagues Cup runner-up First Round Nashville SC
LigaMX/MLS Leagues Cup third place First Round Philadelphia Union
Canada Canadian PL title winner First Round Forge FC
Canada Canadian PL regular season champion First Round Cavalry FC
Canada Canadian Championship** First Round Vancouver Whitecaps
Caribbean Caribbean Cup winner Round of 16 TBD (Cavalier/Robinhood)
Caribbean Caribbean Cup runner-up First Round TBD (Cavalier/Robinhood)
Caribbean Caribbean Cup third-place First Round TBD (Harbour View/Moca)
Central America Central American Cup winner Round of 16 TBD (Alajuelense/Real Esteli)
Central America Central American Cup runner-up First Round TBD (Alajuelense/Real Esteli)
Central America Central American Cup semifinalist First Round Independiente
Central America Central American Cup semifinalist First Round Herediano
Central America Central American Cup play-in winner First Round Comunicaciones
Central America Central American Cup play-in winner First Round Saprissa

* If an already-qualified team from Major League Soccer wins MLS Cup and earns a bye to the Round of 16, the next-best team in the aggregate table, New England Revolution, would qualify for the competition.
** If Vancouver Whitecaps win MLS Cup and earn a bye to the Round of 16, CF Montreal would qualify as the Canadian Championship runners-up.

2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup fixtures, schedule

The dates and bracket for the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup have been officially set as of October 24.

All stages prior to the final will be contested across two legs, while the final will be a single match. It is not yet determined where the final will take place, either hosted by one of the participants or contested at a neutral venue.

Stage First Leg 2nd Leg
First Round Feb. 6-15 Feb. 20-29
Round of 16 Mar. 5-7 Mar. 12-14
Quarterfinals Apr. 2-4 Apr. 9-11
Semifinals Apr. 23-25 Apr. 30-May 2
Final June 2

Who has won the most CONCACAF Champions Cup titles?

Throughout its history, Mexican clubs have dominated the CONCACAF club competition. Since its inception in 1962, and including both iterations of the tournament (the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League), Club America have won the most titles, with seven, including five CONCACAF Champions Cup trophies and two in the other iteration.

Since the initial change from Champions Cup to Champions League in 2009, no club outside of the United States or Mexico have won the competition. The last club to do so at all was Costa Rican side Saprissa in 2005. No MLS club has won the competition more than once.

Clubs with multiple CONCACAF continental championships

Club League Total Titles CCC CCL Last Title
Club America Liga MX 7 5 2 2016
Cruz Azul Liga MX 6 5 1 2014
Monterrey Liga MX 5 0 5 2021
Pachuca Liga MX 5 3 2 2017
Saprissa Costa Rica 3 3 0 2005
UNAM Pumas Liga MX 3 3 0 1989
Atlante Liga MX 2 1 1 2009
Alajuelense Costa Rica 2 2 0 2004
Toluca Liga MX 2 2 0 2003
Necaxa Liga MX 2 2 0 1999
Olimpia Honduras 2 2 0 1988
Defence Force Trinidad &
Tobago
2 2 0 1985

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