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Messi’s Inter Miami Begins Hunt for Concacaf Champions Crown

With a new name and expanded format, the Concacaf Champions Cup gets underway on Tuesday with 27 participating teams and the presence of Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami as the main attraction.

The Argentine star will have the opportunity to add North, Central America and the Caribbean’s most important tournament to his unparalleled résumé, which awards two lucrative tickets to the winner.

The first ticket is for FIFA’s Intercontinental Cup in December 2024 and the second is for the 2025 Club World Cup.

In this way, the Champions Cup winning team will join previous winners León (2023), Seattle Sounders (2022) and Monterrey (2021), as the four representatives of the region in the 2025 Club World Cup, the first expanded to 32 participants.

The top Concacaf tournament, previously known as the Concacaf Champions League, also grows this year from 16 to 27 teams that will compete in four direct knockout ties leading up to the one-match final on June 2.

Inter Miami, which has also recruited Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez this year, earned its spot in the tournament as winner of the Leagues Cup and is one of five clubs exempt from playing the first round.

Columbus Crew (USA), newly-crowned MLS champion under the leadership of Colombian Juan Camilo ‘Cucho’ Hernández, Pachuca (Mexico), Robinhood (Suriname) and Alajuelense (Costa Rica) are the other teams already qualified for the Round of 16, to be played from March 5-14.

Chicharito Returns

The first round kicks off this week with the first leg of five playoffs involving Mexican teams. The opening match will be Monterrey’s visit to Guatemalan side Comunicaciones on Tuesday. On the same day, America, the competition’s most successful team, will debut on the field of Nicaraguan club Real Estelí.

Toluca will travel to Costa Rica to face CS Herediano on Wednesday while Guadalajara and Tigres head to Canada to clash with Forge and Vancouver Whitecaps, respectively.

The return of veteran striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández to Chivas de Guadalajara, the club where he came up and is seeking its first regional title since 2018, is another tournament highlight.

The second leg of these playoffs will take place from February 13-15. The other six playoffs with American teams will be played between February 20-29, including that of Nashville SC and Dominican side Moca FC, which will determine Inter Miami’s Round of 16 opponent.

Nashville SC was precisely the rival that Inter defeated in the Leagues Cup final, the joint tournament between the North American (MLS) and Mexican leagues.

First Round Playoffs

Philadelphia Union (USA) vs Deportivo Saprissa (CRC)

Deportivo Toluca (MEX) vs CS Herediano (CRC)

Club América (MEX) vs Real Estelí FC

CD Guadalajara (MEX) vs Forge FC (CAN)

New England Revolution (USA) vs CA Independiente (PAN)

Houston Dynamo FC (USA) vs St. Louis City SC (USA)

Tigres UANL (MEX) vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC (CAN)

Orlando City SC (USA) vs Cavalry FC (CAN)

CF Monterrey (MEX) vs Comunicaciones FC (GUA)

FC Cincinnati (USA) vs Cavalier FC (JAM)

Nashville SC (USA) vs Moca FC (DOM)

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