Bunched fields across the globe
The close-season recess is ongoing across most of South America, but the battle for domestic honours in Brazil continues apace. With title contenders squaring off in Japan, and crucial matches in Canada and the USA in store, FIFA.com looks forward to the weekend's action.
Brasileirao: Flamengo face resurgent neighbours
Despite being held to a midweek draw at Atletico Mineiro, Flamengo are still three points clear at the top. This weekend, they face their mid-table arch-rivals Vasco da Gama, who will surely be full of confidence after a 4-0 defeat of Sport on Thursday. Second-placed Vitoria, the surprise package of the campaign so far, travel south to face Copa Libertadores finalists Fluminense, who prop up the table but regained some much-needed pride with a 3-0 win over Atletico Paranaense on Wednesday.
Big game: São Paulo and Palmeiras, in ninth and fifth respectively, will lock horns in a Paulista derby at the Morumbi.
Player to watch: Watch out for Figueirense's forward Xavier, who has scored three goals in two games in the past week.
Japanese J.League: Urawa under pressure
Urawa Red Diamonds' 2-0 win over FC Tokyo was enough to secure them outright leadership, but Kashima Antlers, who host the side from the capital in their next game, are breathing down their necks. Urawa face a tricky trip to mid-table Oita Trinita, while Antlers are likely to find FC Tokyo, who are still within striking distance of the leaders, a difficult opponent.
Big game: Dragan Stojkovic's Nagoya Grampus Eight, dumped off top spot by Niigata in Round 15, face another crucial struggle when they return home to welcome Kashiwa Reysol, who now share third place with their hosts.
Player to watch: Gamba Osaka's Bare remains at the top of the scoring charts, and he will be as keen as the rest of his team to bounce back after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Kashiwa.
American MLS: Test in the West
While Steve Nicol's New England Revolution have stormed ahead over in the East, the battle for supremacy in the Western Conference is anything but dull. Colorado Rapids, despite being in fifth place going into the weekend, could come out of it on top of the pile should they overcome lowly San Jose away. In the Great Lakes derby, Chicago Fire and Toronto FC's cross-border battle is about improving their play-off hopes.
Big game: Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew have plenty to play for, with the former battling for first spot in the Western Conference and the latter desperate to claw back some of the Revolution's lead.
Player to Watch: Robbie Rogers, 21, the youngest player in the MLS All-Star team selected to face West Ham United in Toronto later this month, will be keen to mark his call-up with another goal to add to the five he has notched already this season.
Canada's CSL has reached its half-way point, with Trois-Rivieres Attak holding a six-point lead in the National Division, the larger of the two sections of the competition. They will face a determined North York Astros side who will be hoping to gain some ground on the leaders, while the replay of last year's title-decider between Serbian White Eagles and Toronto Croatia is sure to fuel plenty of excitement.
In China PR, surprise leaders Shaanxi Baorong will be hard-pressed to hold on to their slender cushion at the top of the Chinese Super League; not only do second-placed Shandong Luneng have a game in hand, but the eastern club are at home to struggling Wuhan Guanggu on Saturday, while the leaders face an awkward trip to Chengdu on Sunday.