Understanding the CONCACAF Champions League

D.C. United resumes play in the CONCACAF Champions League Tuesday.
Qualifying Of the 24 teams that qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League, nine of them come from North America, four from the United States. Three come from MLS: the league champion, the Supporter’s Shield champion (most total points in the regular season) and the team from the opposite conference with the top point total. The fourth and final spot is granted to the winner of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which D.C. United captured in October 2013. (Getty Images/Gene Sweeney Jr.)
The Draw The clubs are then split into eight groups of three teams each for a round robin, in which each club plays the other two in its group both at home and on the road. D.C. United drew Jamaican side Waterhouse and Panamanian club Tauro F.C. (CONCACAF.com)
Group Stage D.C. United was flawless in group play, earning four victories. Their 4-0-0 record not only advanced them to the next stage but gave them the top overall seed of the eight teams remaining. (CONCACAF.com)
Championship Stage As the top seed, D.C. United will face Costa Rican side LD Alajuelense, the eighth seed, in a home-and-home elimination series beginning in Costa Rica. Much like in the MLS Playoffs, the winner will be determined on combined score, with away goals used as the first tiebreaker. The home leg will be played at RFK Stadium on Wednesday, March 4. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Next Rounds If they advance past LD Alajuelense, D.C. United will face the winner of the series between Mexican side Pachuca and fellow MLS squad Montreal Impact in the semifinals, another home-and-home. If they advance again, they’ll play in the final against the lone remaining team for the chance to advance to the FIFA Club World Cup. Mexican clubs have won nine years straight, including Monterrey from 2011-13. (AP-JAM MEDIA/Alfredo Lopez)
FIFA Club World Cup The Club World Cup is the worldwide competition of all the club teams that have won their respective cup competitions. A total of seven teams play for the title. No MLS team has ever won the FIFA Club World Cup, and only two teams have ever won the CONCACAF Champions League — LA Galaxy in 2000 and D.C. United in 1998. Real Madrid took home the title in 2014. (Getty Images/Steve Bardens)
D.C. United resumes play in the CONCACAF Champions League Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — You may have heard that D.C. United is playing in something called the CONCACAF Champions League. You may not know exactly what that means, or what it is at all. With tournament play resuming Tuesday, we’re here to fix that.

The CONCACAF Champions League is an annual club competition among the professional teams of North America, Central America and the Caribbean. It begins with 24 teams, but exactly how those teams are chosen and how they advance is a bit more complicated. Follow the slides to see how D.C. United has made it this far, and what they have to do to win and move on to the FIFA Club World Cup.

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