FC Cincinnati is set to take on Cavalier F.C. of Jamaica in Round One of the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup, beginning play with an away leg at their home ground of Stadium East Field in Kingston, Jamaica this February before returning to TQL Stadium for the second leg of the matchup.
The Orange and Blue were drawn into slot A10 during the Cup tournaments official draw held Wednesday night, Cavalier was drawn into the B10 slot during their portion of the selection setting up the matchup. This will be the first time FC Cincinnati has participated in continental competition.
As 2023 MLS Supporters’ Shield winners, FC Cincinnati qualified for a continental tournament that will feature 27 clubs from 11 nations vying to be named the top club in North America, South America, and the Caribbean, with the winner earning entry into the FIFA Club World Cup in 2025.
Cavalier F.C., who play in the Jamaican Premier League, earned entry into the tournament by finishing as runners-up in the 2023 Caribbean Cup. Cavalier is one of five clubs based out of the island nation's capital city of Kingston, and was founded in 1963. Cavalier most recently won the Jamaican Premier League in 2021 and finished as runners up in 2023.
Prior to 2024, the continental tournament used the name Concacaf Champions League, which more resembled the naming of the famous UEFA Champions League in European Football. But with a renewed format, the tournament will now crown a Champions Cup winner in the 59th edition of the region's premier tournament being played.
Let’s look at how the tournament works, how the draw could play out, and how FC Cincinnati can earn their way to permanent international glory.
In all, 27 clubs qualify for the tournament, using various avenues to clinch their spot. In Major League Soccer, the top two clubs in each conference and the next two best points records qualify as well as the MLS Cup Winner. Other avenues include the top three Leagues Cup finishers, the winner of the U.S. Open Cup and the winner of the Canadian Championship for Canadian MLS clubs.
The five regional winners (MLS Cup, Liga MX Apertura champion, Leagues Cup champion, Caribbean Cup and Central American Cup champions) get a bye to the Round of 16, but the other 22 teams are drawn together for a two-game aggregate matchup.
Each round in Champions Cup, from Round One all the way to the semifinal, will be played on an aggregate format before contesting the final in a one game, winner-takes-all match. In all, a team entering in Round One, like FC Cincinnati, will have to win five rounds and play nine matches to conquer the tournament.
In each round, the higher-seeded team will travel to the lower-seeded team first before returning home for the second and deciding leg. Guaranteeing FC Cincinnati with at least one home match at TQL Stadium against one of the top clubs in Concacaf. The scores from the two matches will be combined with the first tiebreaker being away goals before moving to extra time and penalty kicks should it be necessary.
This tournament will be played entirely separately from MLS play, meaning any disciplines or stats will not carry over and are not relevant to tournament play. If a player is suspended for Yellow Cards or a Red Card in Champions Cup they will still be available for MLS play and vice versa. Punishments must be served in the same event as they were given for.
Season Ticket Members will have the first home match included with their season ticket membership. Concacaf will announce the complete schedule for Round One, including kickoff times and other important details, in the days to come.
All other FC Cincinnati fans are encouraged to join the Orange & Blue Reserve for an early chance to buy tickets when tickets go on sale in January 2024. More information regarding tickets will be announced at a later date.
Concacaf will hold a live draw to determine FC Cincinnati’s first opponent on Wednesday, December 13 at 7 p.m. ET. The draw will not only inform who FCC will play in Round One, but also how the rest of the bracket will look for the tournament.
For the draw, Concacaf has put each team into a seed or pot to be selected from that will inform their place in the bracket.
Pachuca FC, SV Robinhood, Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, Columbus Crew and Inter Miami FC received a bye to the Round of 16 and will have established spots on the bracket.
The remaining 22 sides will be split into two pots with 11 teams in each to be picked against each other. The top 11 teams by Concacaf ranking will be placed in Pot 1 with the rest of the sides in Pot 2.
FC Cincinnati, along with Philadelphia Union, Orlando City SC, Nashville SC, New England Revolution, Houston Dynamo FC, Deportivo Toluca F.C. (Liga MX), Chivas Guadalajara (Liga MX), will all be in Pot 1.
LIGA MX sides Club América, C.F. Monterrey and UANL will also be placed in Pot 1 as seeded teams. As the top three teams in the pot, they are guaranteed not to face any of the teams given a bye to the Round of 16 should they advance that far.
At the draw, a sphere from Pot 1 will be selected with a team assigned to it, then a sphere from Pot A will be selected to determine that team’s place on the bracket. Once all Pot 1 teams are selected and placed on the bracket, the process will be repeated for Pot 2 clubs and their place on the bracket, adding an additional wrinkle of randomness to how opponents are drawn. Once all teams have been selected, the final bracket and pathway to a Cup will be solidified.
When will the tournament take place?
The 2024 Champions Cup opens just before the start of the 2024 MLS season and runs from February to June concurrent with the MLS calendar.
Round One: February 6-8 (Week 1), February 13-15 (Week 2), February 20-22 (Week 3), and February 27-29 (Week 4)
Round of 16: March 5-7 (First Legs) and March 12-14 (Second Legs)
Quarterfinals: April 2-4 (First Legs) and 9-11 (Second Legs)
Semifinals: April 23-25 (First Legs) and April 30 - May 2 (Second Legs)
Final: June 2
The Fun Facts
- The Concacaf Champions Cup is in its 59th interaction dating back to 1962 when Chivas Guadalajara, a familiar foe for FC Cincinnati, won the inaugural tournament over Guatemalan side (and 2024 entrant) Comunicaciones.
- From 1962 to 2008 the event was named the Champions Cup but was renamed to Champions League from 2008 to 2023 to expand the field from 8 to 16 teams.
- The return to the Champions Cup name in 2024 also comes with an expanded field, increasing from 16 to 22 teams.
- Only twice in the tournament's history has a team from the USA ever won the event. In 2000, LA Galaxy stunned Honduras’s CD Olimpia 3-2 to take home the crown. In 2022, Seattle Sounders FC took down Liga MX side UNAM aka Pumas 5-2 on aggregate. In 2023, LAFC fell in the final to Club Leon of Liga MX.
- Famed Mexican side ‘Club América’ has won the title a record seven times, most recently in 2016.
- In addition to benefits of playing in the tournament, due to the additional matches on the calendar FCC will get the added benefit of advanced entry into the 2024 US Open Cup, joining the tournament a round later than all other MLS teams not in the CCC.
- Six FCC players have appeared in the Cup competition. Nick Hagglund played in the Champions League in 2018 when Toronto FC made a trip to the final. The Cincinnati native played in four matches, making two starts and two substitution appearances. Luciano Acosta made two appearances in 2016 with DC United. Alec Kann has made one start in net, appearing in 2016 for Sporting KC’s 3-1 win over Defence Football Club of Trinidad and Tobago, but has been on the matchday roster 11 times between 2016 and 2020 for SKC and Atlanta United. Brandon Vazquez also appeared on the matchday roster twice for those same Atlanta squads. Matt Miazga appeared three times for the New York Red Bulls in 2014. Alvas Powell has made four starts and three subs in appearances from 2014 to 2021 with Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers.
For more information on Concacaf and the Concacaf Champions Cup click here.