FIFA.com brings you its customary look at the major league action outside of Europea after a weekend featuring state championship deciders in Brazil and title-race tension in Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
Brazilian state championships: Mineiro glory for Luxemburgo
After three barren years, Atletico Mineiro completed a 5-2 aggregate success over Ipatinga to claim their 40th Mineiro state title and the first under former Brazil and Real Madrid supremo Vanderlei Luxemburgo. Avai, for their part, claimed a second consecutive Santa Catarina state crown after overcoming Joinville while the Goiano championship went to Atletico Goianiense, 7-1 aggregate winners over Santa Helena. The Pernambucano honours remain in the balance ahead of Wednesday’s second leg, Nautico holding a narrow 3-2 advantage over Sport after this weekend’s first leg.
Big game: In spectacular form throughout the state campaign, Santos were made to sweat to clinch the Paulista crown after going down to eight men in their second-leg clash against Santo Andre. After a 3-2 first-leg success, O Peixe went down by the same score in the return despite a brace from young starlet Neymar, only claiming their 18th state triumph thanks to a superior regular-season record.
Headline-grabbers: Another three teams also lifted silverware despite second-leg defeats, with Gremio winning the Gaucho title 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-0 home reverse against arch-rivals Internacional. Vitoria, meanwhile, won their fourth consecutive Baiano title despite a 2-1 defeat by Bahia. Fortaleza, for their part, needed penalties to win the Cearense trophy after going down to a 2-1 second-leg loss.
Argentinian Clausura: Two-horse race
With just two rounds of matches still to play, the championship looks all set to go to leaders Estudiantes, 2-1 winners away to Chacarita Juniors, or closest chasers Argentinos Juniors, who won by the same scoreline at San Lorenzo to stay within a point of El Pincha. Seemingly now out of the running are Godoy Cruz and Independiente, who both lost to stay on 31 points, five behind Estudiantes.
Big game: Boca Juniors underlined their recent improved form by beating high-flying Independiente 3-2, a defeat which virtually ended the latter’s Clausura 2010 hopes.
Headline-grabbers: Colon’s goalless draw with already relegated Atletico Tucuman has hit their chances of grabbing a Copa Sudamericana berth, as it leaves them two points behind rivals Velez Sarsfield and Lanus who lost and drew respectively at the weekend.
Mexican Bicentenario: Favourites under pressure
Santos Laguna put one foot in the semis of the title-deciding Liguilla after a 2-0 first-leg win over UNAM Pumas, who now need a two-goal success in the return to progress. Toluca, meanwhile, need only a draw in their second-leg clash at home against America after the first game ended 2-2. Away goals do not count in case of an aggregate draw in the Liguilla, instead the team with a better regular-season record goes through.
Big game: Monarcas produced a fine second-half display to down Guadalajara 4-2 having been 2-1 down at the interval. However, Las Chivas would progress with a second-leg win by two clear goals by virtue of their regular-season record.
Headline-grabbers: Apertura 2009 champions Monterrey were beaten 1-0 by Pachuca, whose goal came from Damian Alvarez. Monterrey, who topped the overall regular-season standings, now need a win by any scoreline to reach the last four.
United States Major League Soccer: Off to flyers
New York Red Bulls and Los Angeles Galaxy remain clear at the top of the Eastern and Western Conferences respectively, the Red Bulls winning 2-0 at DC United and Galaxy sinking Philadelphia Union 3-1 at home.
Big game: Still unbeaten, Columbus Crew were held 1-1 by Seattle Sounders and now lie seven points behind Eastern pace-setters NY Red Bulls, though they have two games in hand. Steve Zakuani put the Sounders ahead, with Steven Lenhart replying for Crew.
Headline-grabbers: Edson Buddle continues to be the outstanding performer of this MLS campaign, grabbing a brace in Galaxy’s latest victory to take his tally to nine so far. Buddle is also the player who has had the most attempts at goal, firing 12 of his 26 efforts on target, while five of his goals were winners – making him the division’s most decisive player.
Al Wahda took a decisive step towards the title in the United Arab Emirates after picking up their 17th win of the campaign. Goals from Brazilians Andre Luciano and Fernando Baiano secured a 2-1 success over Bani Yas, three points which keep Al Wahda five clear of closest pursuers Al Jazira with two matchdays remaining. The latter maintained their slim hopes by beating last year’s champions Al Ahli 4-2.
Following their 3-3 draw with Jiangsu Sainty, Shandong Luneng were joined at the summit of China PR’s top tier by Shanghai Shenhua after the latter’s 2-0 win at Dalian Haichang. However, fourth-placed Beijing Guo’an, who are two points behind with a game in hand, can leapfrog both by beating Qingdao Jonoon on Monday.
Turning to Costa Rica, San Carlos reached their first Verano championship final after a semi-final triumph over traditional heavyweights Alajuelense. Awaiting them in the final will be the latter’s fierce rivals Deportivo Saprissa, who defeated Santos 1-0 on aggregate in the last four.
Finally, with just two rounds of matches still to play in Morocco, Raja Casablanca’s 2-1 away defeat by OC Khouribga has enabled rivals WAC Casablanca to edge past them into first spot. WAC, 2-0 victors over KAC Marrakesh, are now a point clear at the summit.