What is CAF Champions League?

Founded: 1964
Confederation: CAF
Number of teams: 58

Foundation of CAF Champions League

CAF Champions League trophyCAF Champions league is a football tournament contested by leading clubs from various African football leagues. The annual competition is conducted by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

CAF Champions League kicked off in 1964 being referred to as the African Cup of Champions Cup. 14 teams participated in the initial tournament and were drawn into four groups. The group winners went on to play in the semifinals to determine the finalists. The very first club to be crowned the regional champions was Oryx Douala of Cameroon. The final stage of the tournament, from the semis, was held in Ghana. The tournament was not held in 1965 but resumed in 1966.

History of CAF Champions League

Egyptian club Al Ahly won 8 CAF Champions League TitleThe competition originally involved the winners of the respective national leagues that were under the control of CAF. During the early life of the tournament, winners of the tournament came from various regions including Ivory Coast, Egypt, Mali, DRC and Ghana. However, Canon Yaounde of Cameroon and Hafia Conaky of Guinea had a successful spell in the 70s by winning three times each. The two clubs have however not managed another win since.

CAF transformed the tournament in 1997 where it took up the current competition's heading. In addition, they introduced a league stage where the champions would play in preliminary rounds before reaching the level of last 16. Prize money was also introduced for the participants.

Since its formation, Egyptian sides have claimed more victories cumulatively which currently stands at 14 titles. Three clubs from the region have won the title, Al Ahly, Zamalek and Ismaily. Al Ahly has won the CAF Champions league a record eight times. Their Cairo arch-rivals, Zamalek, have managed five titles while Ismaily adds to the tally with their win in 1969. Other teams that have done well are TP Mazembe, having four titles, and Raja Casablanca emerging champions thrice.

There is a push by national associations to have the number of teams playing at the group stage doubled from the current system which involves eight teams. Yet, the tournament faces a great challenge in setting its schedule. This is as a result of the different leagues schedules for the various African football leagues which begin in different months.

Teams Taking Part in CAF Champions League

Algerian club ES Setif won their 2nd CAF Champions League trophyLeague winners of the national leagues under CAF qualify for participation in the competition. There are berths for second placed teams of the 12 highest ranked nations in the region according to the CAF ranking which is based on the performance of the clubs in the preceding five years. About 64 teams kick off the prestigious club tournament of the continent.

The most recent competition, CAF Champions League 2014, involved 58 teams from 47 different nations. ES Setif of Algeria won the 50th edition; their second title in the history of the tournament. The next tournament is expected to host a maximum of 69 teams, a level that has not been attained yet. A total of 330 clubs from the various 54 member associations have taken part in the competition since its inception.

CAF Champions League tournament scope

The tournament involves runner-ups of top leagues in the region as from the 2004 edition when the CAF Confederations Cup was formed through the integration of the CAF Cup Winner's Cup and the CAF Cup. The latter competition was the one that involved the runner-ups competing.

The champion of the CAF Champions League plays the CAF Confederation Cup winner in the subsequent CAF Super Cup. The champions are also entered into the FIFA Club World Cup.

CAF Champions League qualification phase, group & format

Champions from CAF member nations’ leagues play in qualifying rounds at the start of the tournament. The qualified teams play in knockout phases namely the preliminary round, followed by 32 teams playing in the first round and 16 teams play in the second round. The ties are determined through draws conducted at the CAF headquarters.

The 8 winners in this round are then drawn into two groups. The losing teams take part in the Confederation Cup, another annual competition run by CAF. Winners and runner-ups of the two groups move to the semi-final to determine who plays in the final.

All the ties in the tournament are two-legged matches, played at home and away. If the teams have equal aggregate after both matches, CAF uses the away goals rule to determine the winner. If the tie is still not broken, the teams go for a penalty shootout as no extra time is played.

CAF Champions League tournament schedule

For example, the 2014 CAF Champions League, the schedule of the competition was as follows (all draws held at CAF headquarters in Cairo, Egypt unless otherwise stated).

PhaseRoundDraw dateFirst legSecond leg
Qualifying Preliminary round 16 December 2013
(Marrakech, Morocco)
7–9 February 2014 14–16 February 2014
First round 28 February–2 March 2014 7–9 March 2014
Second round 21–23 March 2014 28–30 March 2014
Group stage Matchday 1 29 April 2014 16–18 May 2014
Matchday 2 23–25 May 2014
Matchday 3 6–8 June 2014
Matchday 4 25–27 July 2014
Matchday 5 8–10 August 2014
Matchday 6 22–24 August 2014
Knock-out stage Semi-finals 19–21 September 2014 26–28 September 2014
Final 24–26 October 2014 31 October–2 November 2014

The draw for the preliminary, first and second qualifying rounds was held on 16 December 2013.

Qualification ties were played on a home-and-away two-legged basis. If the sides were level on aggregate after the second leg, the away goals rule was applied, and if still level, the tie proceeded directly to a penalty shoot-out (no extra time was played).

The league will be planning for schedule, structure along with venues while organizing football matches. Most of the members of CAF have expressed their ideas that it would be better if matches are scheduled to timelines comparable to UEFA Champions league.

Countries with most wins in CAF Champions League

Country   Wins Winning Clubs
  Egypt  14 Al Ahly (8), Zamalek SC (5), Ismaily SC (1)
  DR Congo  5 TP Mazembe (4), AS Vita Club (1)
  Morocco  5 Raja CA Casablanca (3), FAR Rabat (1), Wydad Casablanca (1)
  Algeria  5 ES Setif (2), JS Kabylie (2), MC Alger (1)
  Cameroon  5 Canon Yaoundé (3), US Douala (1), Oryx Douala (1)
  Tunisia  4 ES Tunis (2), ES Sahel (1), Club Africain (1)
  Ghana  3 Asante Kotoko SC (2), Accra Hearts of Oak SC (1)
  Guinea  3 Hafia FC (3)
  Nigeria  2 Enyimba International FC (2)
  Ivory Coast  2 ASEC Mimosas (1), Stade d'Abidjan (1)
  South Africa  1 Orlando Pirates FC (1)
  Congo  1 CARA Brazzaville (1)