New faces in the driving seat
There were changes at the top in both Argentina and Mexico at the weekend, while a clutch of unfancied sides continued to impress in the J.League and Major League Soccer. FIFA.com reflects on the latest developments outside Europe.
Argentinian Clausura: Velez take control
Velez Sarsfield, the league's only unbeaten side, made the most of Lanus's 2-1 defeat at Argentinos Juniors and Colon's 1-1 draw with Arsenal to go top, a Hernan Lopez penalty giving them a 1-0 win at San Lorenzo. With just a week to go before the Buenos Aires derby, River Plate and Boca Juniors both failed to win. Los Millonarios drew 2-2 at home to a Gimnasia La Plata side struggling to maintain their top-flight status, while Boca went down 1-0 at Estudiantes.
Big game: Rosario Central fell 1-0 at home to Racing Club in a match vital to both sides' chances of avoiding relegation. Franco Sosa's second-half strike helped Racing, who have now gone four games without conceding, pull away from the bottom.
Headline grabber: Second-bottom Estudiantes beat Boca thanks to Gaston Fernandez's well-executed free-kick. Fernandez has now scored for four different sides against Los Xeneizes, his other strikes coming for River Plate, Racing Club and San Lorenzo.
Mexican Clausura: Toluca beaten at last
Pachuca extended their lead at the top of Group 1 after downing Toluca 3-1, ending their 13-game unbeaten start to the season. Atlas moved into the championship play-off places in Group 3 after overwhelming relegation-threatened Necaxa 4-1, a result that took them ahead of Jaguares, 2-0 losers at home to Santos Laguna, who picked up their first win in six.
Big game: Matchday 13 threw up two rousing 3-3 draws. San Luis led 3-1 at home to Tecos with less than 15 minutes remaining only for Arnhold Rivas and Freddy Bareiro to hit late goals and ensure a share of the spoils. The match between America and Indios Juarez also produced an exciting finale. La Tribu led 3-2 with just minutes remaining before an inspired Salvador Cabanas struck to give America a point.
Headline grabber: Cabanas was America's saviour once more. That late goal against Indios completed a hat-trick for the Paraguayan international and took his tally for the season to 11, making him top scorer in the league.
Japanese J.League: Outsiders stay strong
Newly-promoted Montedio Yamagata continued their fine start to the campaign by winning 1-0 at Oita Trinita to move second. Albirex Niigata dropped down to third after losing to a solitary Paulinho strike against Kyoto Purple Sanga. Both Montedio and Niigata are locked on ten points with Urawa Red Diamonds, who secured a slender 1-0 win at Nagoya Grampus Eight. Two points clear at the top are Kashima Antlers, while Gamba Osaka tripped up again, losing 3-2 at Omiya Ardija, who climbed up to fifth.
Big game: Three-time Japanese champions Yokohama Marinos collected their maiden win of the season with a 5-0 reverse of Vissel Kobe Kazuma. Kazuma Watanabe and Koji Yamase both scored twice, with Kenta Kano completing the scoring.
Headline grabber: Yuya Osako made a dream debut for reigning champions and league leaders Kashima Antlers, scoring the decisive second goal in his side's 2-1 triumph at FC Tokyo.
The battle for the Taca Rio continued in Brazil with arch-rivals Flamengo and Fluminense doing battle in the second semi-final. Juan scored the only goal of the game to send Fla through to next Sunday's final against Botafogo. In the Paulista State Championship, meanwhile, Corinthians took a step towards the final after an injury-time goal gave them a 2-1 win over Sao Paulo in the first leg of their semi-final.
Following three straight wins in the American MLS, new boys Seattle Sounders suffered their first defeat of the season, going down 1-0 at home to Kansas City Wizards. Chivas USA replaced the Sounders at the top of the Western Conference after playing out a goalless draw with city rivals Los Angeles Galaxy. Chicago Fire continue to lead the way in the Eastern Conference but were grateful to claim a point in a dramatic 3-3 draw at San Jose.
The destiny of the Iranian championship is still uncertain. Zob-Ahan moved into a one-point lead after they won 2-1 at Bargh and Esteghlal were held 0-0 at Foolad. All will be decided in the final two rounds of games.
Colo Colo slumped to their sixth consecutive defeat in the Chilean Apertura, falling 2-0 to unheralded Nublense on Matchday 12. The Santiago giants now lie 15th, some 17 points adrift of leaders Union Espanola.