Concacaf Champions League will expand in 2023, capitalize on regional rivalries

Concacaf president Victor Montagliani at 2017 Gold Cup

The Concacaf Champions League will expand in 2023, president Victor Montagliani said in an interview with TSN reporter Kristian Jack on Tuesday.

While Montagliani didn’t get into specifics, he emphasized that the continental club competition will have “more games, more often, more relevancy.” Montagliani pointed to rivalries across Concacaf that he believes are ready to reach another level, with CCL games possibly carrying even more excitement. 

“We have an opportunity to actually get it right and get it correct, learning from others and also emphasizing how big these rivalries are, whether it’s a Canadian club versus an MLS club, MLS versus Liga MX, Honduran versus MLS,” he said. “These are rivalries that I think just are dying to explode in our region, and I think the Champions League is where you’re going to get that.”

As it currently stands, the CCL contains 16 teams from across North America, Central America and the Caribbean in a knockout format. The winner advances to the FIFA Club World Cup, which is currently held annually and brings together seven teams from six different confederations. Aside from champions from Europe (UEFA Champions League), South America (Copa Libertadores) and others, the host nation's national champions also participate in the knockout tournament.

Since the Club World Cup started in 2000, no team from Concacaf has advanced to the final. Liga MX clubs Monterrey (2019) and Pachuca (2017) finished third in recent years, but a title has proven elusive. Evaluating that fact, Montagliani sees a gap that needs to narrow.

“We traditionally have not done well at the Club World Cup and it’s because, I think it’s a cultural issue,” Montagliani said. “We had historically put more emphasis on a domestic cup rather than international football and I don’t know if that was because of fear or lack of knowledge or both. But now you can see the attitude that the MLS clubs now have coming into our Champions League is significantly different just in the last three years. Even with the Mexican teams, Tigres are so hungry for this because this is going to be their fourth final.”

Montagliani’s remarks came before Tigres beat LAFC 2-1 Tuesday night to raise the 2020 CCL trophy. In the tournament’s modern-day version, MLS teams have now lost four finals. The other three to reach that stage are Toronto FC (2018), Montreal Impact (2015) and Real Salt Lake (2011).