Wide open across the world

Brazilians proudly proclaims its domestic championship to be the most wide open on the planet, and its latest edition will get underway with a number of legitimate contenders this weekend. Things could not be much tighter at the top in Argentina or Uruguay, and a crop of hopefuls have underlined their credentials in the early stages up in the USA.

With just four points separating the seven frontrunners going into Round 16 in Vietnam, the title battle approaching a thrilling crescendo in South Africa, and quarter-final places up for grabs in Mexico, FIFA.com previews the forthcoming action.

Argentinian Clausura: Quartet split by a point
Not since Estudiantes edged Boca Juniors in a thrilling climax to the Apertura in December 2006 has so much rested on one of their encounters. The inspiration behind that triumph was Juan Sebastian Veron, and all eyes will again be on the former Boca playmaker as Los Pincharratas go in search of a home victory that would take them four points clear of their opponents.

River Plate and San Lorenzo currently sit level on points with Estudiantes at the summit. Los Millonarios host Gimnasia on Matchday 14's second Buenos Airies-La Plata duel, while El Ciclón will entertain sixth-placed Independiente.

Big game: Velez Sarsfield, three points off the pace, need to beat Rosario Central at home to maintain their challenge.
Players to watch: After slow starts to the campaign, Andres D'Alessandro, who helped San Lorenzo eliminate River Plate from the Copa Libertadores midweek, and Independiente's German Denis have found their touch.

Brasileiro: Let the marathon begin
Sao Paulo will begin their quest to become the first winners of three consecutive Brasileiros at home to Gremio on Saturday, but a selection of sides are threatening to deny them this distinction. Flamengo overcame a disastrous start to finish third in 2007, and they will be determined to get off to a flyer when Santos, last season's runners-up, visit the Maracana.

Coritiba and Palmeiras, fresh from Paranaense and Paulista state triumphs respectively, will compete at the Couto Pereira, while the newly-crowned Gaucho kings Intermacional will host Vasco.

Big game: Ipatinga will make their Serie A debut at home to 2001 champions Atletico Paranaense.
Players to watch: Danilinho will be central to Atletico Mineiro's chances of a three-point start, but in Fluminense playmaker Thiago Neves he will be up against one of Brazil's finest talents.

American Major League Soccer: Holders seek kickstart
A number of sides have underlined their title credentials in the early running, but one notable exception are the defending champions. Houston Dynamo, chasing a record third straight crown, will be out to pick up their first win of the campaign at the seventh time of asking when they host Western Conference pacesetters Colorado Rapids.

Meantime, Columbus Crew will assume leadership of the Eastern Conference from Chicago Fire if they win their game in hand at goal-shy San Jose Earthquakes.

Big game: FC Dallas, level on points with the Rapids, will look to refuel their charge at Real Salt Lake.
Players to watch: Veteran midfielder David Beckham maintained his fine start to the season with a brace last time out, but 18-year-old sensation Jozy Altidore will be eager to steal the headlines when New York Red Bulls visit Ruud Gullit's team.

Vietnamese V-League: The narrow divide
Four points. That is all that splits the V-League's top seven heading into Round 16 of 26. One point outside this bracket rest Khanh Hoa, who will aim to propel themselves into contention with victory over leaders Hai Phong, for whom emerging forward Nguyen Ngoc Thanh has been in resplendent form.

With runners-up The Cong inactive, third-placed Long An will hope to capitalise by beating struggling Da Nang away, although they will have to be wary of the free-scoring Almeida.

Big game: ACB Ha Noi are desperate for points to aid ther survival push, while an away success would improve seventh-placed Hoang Anh Gia Lai's chances of a third league title this century.
Players to watch: Wandwasi Rodgers has starred for Halida Thanh Hoa in recent weeks, but the on-song Valdiney Dos Santos will be out to spoil his day and elevate fifth-placed Song Lam Nghe An up the standings.

South Africa Premier Soccer League: Can United inch into pole?
An engrossing PSL title battle will reach its conclusion one week on Sunday. Ajax Cape Town occupy pole position but that will change if Supersport United win their game in hand at home to mid-table Moroka Swallows.

Victory on Saturday would move the Swanky Boys one point clear at the top ahead of the final two rounds, while anything less would throw Santos a lifeline. The People's team trail Ajax by six points having played a game less, but they will have the chance to reduce this margin when they play at Benoni Premier United.

Big game: Saturday's Soweto Derby will offer fierce enemies Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates the opportunity to take some consolation from a disappointing season.
Players to watch: Veteran goalkeeper Andre Arendse has been in outstanding form of late, and Supersport will be relying on him when they come up against prolific attackers James Chamanga and Sandile Ndlovu.

It is one of the biggest fixtures on the South American calendar, and with Penarol and Nacional tied on points at the Uruguayan Clausura summit with just three rounds remaining, the stakes will be massive on Sunday. River Plate, also on 28 points, will take a temporary three-point lead if they beat Fenix away on Saturday.

An injury-time Eduardo Coudet penalty means that Real San Luis will defend a one-goal lead when they host Pachuca on Sunday. The aggregate victors will be joined in the quarter-finals of the Mexican Clausura by the winners of the Necaxa-Atlas tie, which is evenly poised following a 1-1 draw in Guadalajara.