Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Changes to Copa Libertadores format from 2017

South American football confederation CONMEBOL has confirmed a number of changes to the format of its flagship Copa Libertadores. From 2017 onwards, there will be group stage spots reserved for the holders of the two international competitions and four nations receive additional spots.

The Copa Libertadores trophy (Photo: copa90.com).
Six new teams will find their way into the Copa Libertadores from next season. The total number of competitors rises from 38 to 44. This leads mostly to a larger qualification field, considering the group stage retains its 32 teams. The tournament will last from February until November. 

The leagues profiting the most from the changes are Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Chile. Due to the country size, Brazil was awarded two additional spots to their already dominating five. This means that three of them will take part in the qualification process that sees 16 teams fight for four leftover positions. Argentina, Colombia and Chile all receive one additional qualification spot. 

In the future, both the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana champion will qualify for the competition's group stage automatically. Atlético Nacional are already affected by the changes and do not need to qualify via their usual league route. 

Three of the four countries receiving additional spots will be required to determine who gets to play in the Libertadores next year. Brazil simply gave the spots to the fifth- and sixth-best league team. At the moment, those are Fluminense and Atlético Paranaense. Whether they actually improve the competition dramatically remains up in the air. Brazilians have not done too well internationally recently. The last champion was Atlético Mineiro in 2013.

Another new feature is that Mexican clubs no longer have invitation status. This means that finals can be played in Mexico, whereas this was only possible in the first leg in previous years. In general, there will very likely just be a single leg on neutral ground to determine the winner in upcoming years. It is a change that is critically viewed among fans in South America. While CONMEBOL insist that the second leg home team won in 70% of the cases, it does make sense considering they are usually seeded higher after the group stages. Supporters from poorer countries certainly cannot make a trip to another country to see their team play in a final there. A lot of the traditional atmosphere would be lost.

Update: Fox Sports Argentina have reported during this afternoon that the two-legged final would remain a part of the competition. Great news if indeed true.

So far, 17 of 44 teams have already booked their place in the tournament starting next February. These are the following: 

Atlético Nacional - holders
Lanús - Champions of Argentina
San Lorenzo - 2nd Argentina
Estudiantes - 3rd Argentina
Godoy Cruz - 4th Argentina
Sport Boys - Apertura champions Bolivia
Jorge Wilstermann - Clausura champions Bolivia
The Strongest - Most points Bolivia
Universidad Católica - Clausura champions Chile
Independiente Medellín - Apertura champions Colombia
Chivas Guadalajara - Supercopa MX winner Mexico
Peñarol - Champions of Uruguay
Nacional - Most points Uruguay
Cerro - Second most points Uruguay
Libertad - Apertura champions Paraguay
Zamora - Apertura champions Venezuela
Barcelona - Primera Etapa champions Ecuador


Post a Comment