New look for Oceania’s elite club competition
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The revamped format for the 2013 OFC Champions League has been confirmed with the tournament, previously known as the O-League, undergoing a change of format for the 2013 edition.

Eight of the Pacific’s finest teams from seven OFC member association countries will fight it out for the right to be crowned kings of Oceania from 30 March to 19 May.

As in recent seasons, the eight teams will be split into two groups with Ba (Fiji), Hekari United (Papua New Guinea), Solomon Warriors (Solomon Islands) and Amicale (Vanuatu) competing in Group A, while Mont Dore (New Caledonia), Auckland City (New Zealand), Waitakere United (New Zealand) and Dragon (Tahiti) will do battle in Group B.

Unlike in previous years, however, a semi-final stage will now be played and will feature the two highest-placed teams in each group. These matches will be played over two legs on a home-and-away basis.

The victorious semi-final teams will then clash in a winner-takes-all final at a pre-determined venue. For the 2013 edition, this venue will be in Auckland, New Zealand.

The one-match final is a change from previous seasons, in which the final was played over two legs, home and away. The winner of the final will earn the right to represent Oceania at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013.

For the past four seasons, the O-League - which replaced the defunct OFC Club Championship in 2007 - has kicked off in late October or early November while the two-legged final has been staged in April or May.

This format has come to an end for the 2013 edition though with the group stages now set to take place from 30 March to 27 April and the two legs of the semi-finals scheduled for 4 May and 11 May. The final will be staged at a to-be-confirmed venue in Auckland on 19 May.

A new logo and trophy have also been designed and will add a further fresh look when the competition kicks off in March.

“Each of the clubs has three home matches and we felt it was important to keep this in place as it gives the chance for football fans from all around the region to watch their team in action first-hand,” said OFC General Secretary Tai Nicholas.

“The condensed format means games will now take place every weekend, as well as midweek matches, which also makes the competition more attractive to fans and sponsors as there are no lengthy delays between each round. And the introduction of semi-finals means more teams will feature in the race for the title right up until the final stages, extending the excitement levels of the fans for a longer period.”

Auckland City are the defending champions of the OFC Champions League after defeating Tahiti’s Tefana in the final of the 2012 edition. The Aucklanders featured at the recent 2012 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, where they suffered a narrow 1-0 loss to J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima.