Lionel Messi, considered the greatest soccer player on the planet today—and maybe ever—led his native Argentina to the 2022 FIFA World Cup title, and with that has lifted almost every major trophy that exists. But there is at least one piece of major tournament hardware he hasn’t won yet: a Concacaf Champions Cup. Now he gets his chance.
Showcasing the best soccer clubs across North America, Central America and the Caribbean, the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup tournament will kick off in February as part of “what promises to be a thrilling time for soccer in North America over the next few years,” said Zac Kenworthy, VP of production for FOX Sports, which will broadcast the 2024 Champions Cup matches. “The timing couldn’t be better.”
That’s true for the Concacaf confederation of soccer associations, and also for brand partners seeking to reach its loyal, diverse, affluent fan base.
For its 59th edition, Concacaf has dramatically expanded its championship club tournament, nearly doubling the size, from 30 matches to 51, and boosting the number of qualifying clubs from 16 to 27. The tournament draw, including the important first-round matchups, will take place on Dec. 13, while five rounds of play stretching through the spring will culminate in a final match on June 2, 2024, on FOX Sports.
The 41-country regional soccer confederation brought back the Champions Cup name for its annual club championship, both as an homage to the past and a promise for the future.
“Going back to that traditional name allowed us to really celebrate the history of this competition,” said Phillippe Moggio, Concacaf general secretary. “Champions Cup has been a great platform for powerhouse teams from Central America and the Caribbean, as well as a showcase for that intense Liga MX-Major League Soccer rivalry between Mexico and the U.S.”
Attracting a unique audience
The return to the Champions Cup name makes sense, as this is a tournament of champions. Qualifiers are regional champions like the Liga MX and MLS victors from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, as well as the winners of the Canadian Championship, Caribbean Cup and Central American Cup, and the winner of this past summer’s inaugural intraleague Leagues Cup.
The first edition of the new Champions Cup will include an array of Liga MX giants, with Club America, Chivas and Tigres among the tournament qualifiers. Nine MLS participants include the glamorous Inter Miami (more on them later), Houston Dynamo, Nashville SC and Philadelphia Union. Alongside them are Central American teams with their own rich histories, like Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica, the 2005 tournament winner.
The Concacaf Champions Cup also is looking ahead to the future, arriving just in time for the reformatted and also dramatically expanded FIFA Club World Cup. The 2025 Club World Cup will be played in the U.S., and for the first time will feature 32 teams, including the Concacaf Champions Cup winner.
North American soccer attracts a unique audience, said Mike Tasevski, VP of global sponsorship for Canada’s Scotiabank, a 10-year Concacaf partner.
“The Champions Cup fan base is young, it’s multicultural and it’s very loyal,” he said. “At Scotiabank we view football as a force for good in the community and also as a force for growth for our brand.”
Tasevski said Scotiabank plans to bring clients to matches, and has an activation strategy around the tournament that will reach diverse customer bases in key markets like Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, as well as its home Canadian markets.
Added Bryan McAleer, senior VP of sports brand partnerships and digital content studio at FOX Sports, “What’s really exciting about the Concacaf audience is they are composed of the most avid fans of the sport in the U.S. They’re trendsetters and culture creators for a rapidly growing soccer fanbase domestically, with unrivaled passion and loyalty. From live matches and studio coverage to digital highlights and engaging with our broadcasters on social media, they support their clubs and countries across all our platforms.”
A global visibility
Concacaf has worked to give its clubs more visibility on the global stage, Moggio said. The confederation and its Champions Cup partners expect to benefit from the “Messi effect,” the attention paid recently to Lionel Messi, the Argentine professional footballer who plays for MLS club Inter Miami and the Argentina national team. Inter Miami and Messi will be part of the Concacaf Champions Cup field.
Tasevski said, “The Messi effect will elevate the game to a higher standard in the region. And Champions Cup will drive it the same way. It brings more eyeballs to the game. It intensifies the competition. It makes those players better, and makes the teams want to succeed.”
The Concacaf Champions Cup is one of a series of marquee soccer events taking place in North America and leading up to the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be cohosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Next year the confederation will launch an inaugural women’s Gold Cup in the Spring, and a men’s Gold Cup in the summer of 2025, just one year out from FIFA’s showpiece event. Copa America 2024, jointly organized by Concacaf and its South American counterpart Conmebol, will be a special edition played in U.S. venues.
“What Concacaf has done to execute this is perfect timing,” Tasevski said. “We’re going to see a great runway build as we get closer to the World Cup. The ecosystem for football in North America is growing and the stories are growing larger all the time. I think this is going to build a greater fan base for football across all of North America.”
Agreed FOX’s Kenworthy: “With the Copa America 2024, FIFA Club World Cup 2025 and FIFA World Cup 2026 all taking place in North America, it truly feels like the entire continent, and the U.S. in particular, are entering a new golden era for the sport. The interest in soccer and its massive lineup of superstar players is at an all-time high, and with the addition of a global icon like Lionel Messi, the Concacaf Champions Cup is another opportunity for FOX Sports to showcase the beautiful game.”