Champagne on ice for title hopefuls

Moving one step closer to clinching their respective league titles this weekend were Brazilian outfit Sao Paulo and Japanese pacesetters Urawa Reds. Over in USA, narrow first leg results in the conference semi-finals of this year's Major League Soccer play-offs mean there is everything to play for ahead in next week's return matches.

Read on as brings you the lowdown on some of the most exciting championships outside of Europe.

Brazilian Championship: Tricolor Paulista on the brink
Runaway leaders Sao Paulo continued their surge towards the title with a 2-1 win over Sport Recife on Sunday, a sweetly struck free-kick from keeper Rogerio Ceni and an Aloisio effort sealing all three points. Saturday's win for second-placed Santos over Goias kept the lid on the Tricolor Paulista celebrations for the time being at least, though they will be expected to finish the job in their next match at home to bottom-placed America-RN.

Gremio, with a 4-3 win over Nautico, took advantage of Cruzeiro's 1-1 draw with Atletico-PR to take a share of fourth spot. Causing the biggest stir during the final run-in are Flamengo, who have recovered from an alarming slump to record four victories in a row - the latest away at America-RN - and now have their sights on a Copa Libertadores qualification spot.

Top three: Sao Paulo (70), Santos (55) and Palmeiras (55).
Top scorers: Josiel (Parana, 19), Acosta (Nautico, 18), Dodo (Botafogo, 13).

Japanese J-League: Title within Reds' grasp
Despite only managing a 1-1 draw at home to Nagoya Grampus Eight, a 3-1 away defeat for rivals Gamba Osaka against Shimizu S-Pulse saw leaders Urawa Reds edge ever closer to the J-League crown. The Urawa outfit, who have also reached the final of this year's AFC Champions League, are seven points clear at the top of the table with four games still to play.

Perhaps the most eye-catching performance came from Korean frontman Chong Tese, who grabbed a hat-trick for Kawasaki Frontale in a 7-0 away defeat of FC Tokyo.

Top three: Urawa Reds (68), Gamba Osaka (61), Kashima Antlers (60)
Top scorers: Juninho (Kawasaki Frontale, 19), Bare (Gamba Osaka, 17), Ueslei (Sanfrecce Hiroshima, 17).

American Major League Soccer: Ties in the balance
Chicago Fire, FC Dallas and the Kansas City Wizards all got off to a winning start in the 2007 MLS Cup Playoffs, the trio recording slender 1-0 victories over DC United, Houston Dynamo and Chivas USA respectively. Chris Rolfe, Clarence Goodson and Davy Arnaud were the scorers in a tense and close-fought first round of matches.

With New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution sharing a 0-0 stalemate in their conference semi-final clash, no team will take a comfortable lead into next week's return matches, scheduled for between 1 and 3 November.

Mexican league: Silva at the double for America
Sunday's eagerly awaited clásico between America and Chivas Guadalajara ended in a 2-1 win for the Águilas, home striker Juan Carlos Silva grabbing a brace to seal America's fourth consecutive win over their fierce rivals. Guadalajara forward Omar Bravo replied for the visitors but to no avail.

In the weekend's other big game, Cruz Azul's Miguel Sabah scored twice to help his side to a 2-1 away success over Pumas UNAM. Monterrey, meanwhile, ended a run of four home defeats in a row on Saturday by beating Pachuca 3-1. In the battle to avoid relegation, Puebla and Veracruz shared a 0-0 draw which edges them slightly away from the drop zone.

The leaders: Group 1: Toluca (27) and Pumas UNAM (19); Group 2: Santos Laguna (33) and Atlante (26); Group 3: Real San Luis (24) and Guadalajara (22)
Top scorers: Alfredo David Moreno (San Luis, 15), Daniel Emanuel Luduena (Santos, 12), Giancarlo Gregorio Maldonado Marrero (Atlante, 11)

Egyptian league: Al Gaish hold their nerve
Leaders Al Gaish maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a hard-fought victory over Itesalat, a 77th-minute penalty from Mashhour enough to seal all three points. Bottom side Al Ittihad are still yet to taste victory this campaign, Saturday's 2-0 home reverse against Baladiyyat Al-Mehalla making it four defeats and four draws from their eight matches thus far.

The top three: Al Gaish (22), Al Ahly (17), Petrojet (16)

In the Chilean Clausura, Audax Italiano kept tight hold of top spot with a 2-0 win over O'Higgins, while Universidad de Chile remain their closest challengers. Colo Colo eased aside Santiago Wanderers 4-0 to put an emphatic end to a run of four consecutive defeats and move up to fourth place in the table.