12/2/2008 – NEW YORK – Central American clubs will not have to engage in a separate round of playoffs to qualify for next season’s CONCACAF Champions League or to determine their seeding under simplified regulations announced Tuesday.

Because teams in the region play split Apertura and Clausura seasons, a team winning both championships would claim the top seed from countries that receive more than one berth (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama). If the Apertura and Clausura winners are different, the seedings would be determined first by aggregate points over both seasons, then goal difference then goals scored.

In the case where one team wins both the Apertura and Clausura, the second seed would be determined by the tiebreaker procedure.

Similarly, in Belize and Nicaragua – which receive one place each in the Preliminary Round, if one team wins both the Apertura and Clausura, that team would earn the berth. If different teams win the two titles, the qualifier would be determined by the tiebreaker rather than a playoff.

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The purpose is to eliminate the extra games that had to be played this past year and caused numerous scheduling conflicts with national team commitments, “while retaining the competitive integrity of the domestic league seasons by rewarding performance throughout the year,” CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer said.

The Champions League will begin the last week of July with the first leg of the Preliminary Round, a full month before this year’s inaugural event started.

Half of the 24-team field is comprised of teams from Central America. Four teams, one each from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, qualify directly for the Group Stage along with two teams each from Mexico and the United States. Eight others are entered into the Preliminary Round, a two-leg playoff that determines the last eight qualifiers for the Group Stage.

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