Friday 29 March 2024, 13:00

Make-or-break for Barcelona in the race to qualify for the Mundial de Clubes FIFA 25™

  • Mamelodi Sundowns, Salzburg, Atlético Madrid and Ulsan on the brink of qualifying

  • Two other clubs, ES Tunis and Jeonbuk Motors, could also clinch their spots in April

  • Barcelona face make-or-break tie against Paris Saint-Germain

Four more clubs – Ulsan HD FC (KOR), Mamelodi Sundowns FC (RSA), FC Salzburg (AUT) and Club Atlético de Madrid (ESP) – are poised to claim their places at the inaugural 32-team Mundial de Clubes FIFA™ (FIFA Club World Cup 2025™) over the course of the next three weeks, while FC Barcelona (ESP) face another make-or-break tie in their bid to qualify. The continental competitions resume from 29 March with quarter-finals in the CAF Champions League, Concacaf Champions Cup and UEFA Champions League, while the AFC Champions League is at the semi-final stage. The first matches are in Africa where Al Ahly (EGY), CAF Champions League winners in 2020/21 and 2022/23, and Wydad Athletic Club (MAR), winners in 2021/22, have already qualified as continental champions and will be joined by this year's winners and one team via the ranking pathway. The latter will be either Mamelodi Sundowns or Espérance Sportive de Tunis (TUN), although both clubs will qualify if one or the other go on to lift the trophy, or if Al Ahly win the title for a record 12th time. Mamelodi Sundowns, the most successful club in the South African Premier Division with 13 titles, will book their place if Espérance lose their quarter-final. The Shoe Shine and Piano face Young Africans SC (TAN) (30 March and 5 April) while four-time champions Espérance play AS des Employés de Commerce Mimosas (CIV) (30 March and 6 April). Furthermore, if Mamelodi lose their quarter-final with either a draw and defeat or two defeats and Espérance go through to the semi-finals with two victories, the Tunisian club would overtake their South African rivals in the rankings and therefore be guaranteed qualification.

Mamelodi Sundowns fans cheer

The third quarter-final features five-time champions Tout Puissant Mazembe (COD) against Atlético Petróleas Luanda (ANG), two sides who can only qualify by winning the competition (30 March and 6 April). Similarly, Simba Sports Club (TAZ), who face Al Ahly (29 March and 5 April), must win the competition to qualify. The action resumes on 9 April in Europe where five-time European champions Barcelona must eliminate Paris Saint-Germain FC (FRA) in their quarter-final to keep alive their chances of qualifying, either via the rankings or as this season's Champions League winners. If Xavi's side lose the tie, then Atlético Madrid will guarantee their place via the ranking pathway regardless of how they fare against BV Borussia 09 Dortmund (GER). Similarly, FC Salzburg will book their place if Arsenal FC (ENG) – who can only qualify as champions – are knocked out by FC Bayern München (GER).

Cesar Azpilicueta of Atletico Madrid celebrates

In Asia, one place is still open for the winners of the 2023/24 AFC Champions League and one via the ranking pathway. Ulsan will be guaranteed a FIFA Club World Cup 2025 berth at the expense of their compatriots Jeonbuk Motors FC (KOR) should they secure one more win - or two draws - in this season’s competition, or progress to the final. The Tigers face Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN) on 17 and 24 April with Harry Kewell’s Marinos knowing that they can only qualify for next year’s tournament in the United States by winning the AFC Champions League for the first time. In the other semi-final (16 and 23 April), Al Ain FC (UAE) host four-time winners Al Hilal (KSA), who have already qualified as champions of the 2021 edition. Should the Saudi side win a fifth title, the two Korean clubs leading the rankings list, Ulsan and Jeonbuk, will join them in the United States. Additionally, if Al Hilal and Ulsan both advance to the final, Jeonbuk’s place at the global tournament will be secure.

Jo Hyeon-woo of Ulsan Hyundai celebrates

Clubs from Mexico and USA are dominating the race to claim the fourth and final Concacaf place which will go to the winners of the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup. This has reached the quarter-final stage with the first legs on 2-3 April and the returns on 9-10 April.

Lionel Messi’s Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami (USA) are among the contenders and face CF Monterrey (MEX), who are already qualified as 2021 champions. Should Rayados add to their five titles, they will open up a place for the top side in the rankings which would be either Philadelphia Union (USA) or Columbus Crew (USA), with the former holding a considerable advantage.

Inter Miami's Argentine forward #10 Lionel Messi

There are two more ties between Mexican and United States clubs – Club América (MEX) against New England Revolution (USA) and Tigres UANL (MEX) against Columbus Crew. Costa Rican side CS Herediano (CRC), the only club from outside the USA and Mexico still in the running, face CF Pachuca (MEX).

The group stage of the CONMEBOL Libertadores 2024 starts on 2 April, with three of the six places in South America still up for grabs – one for this year’s winners and two via the ranking pathway. The final is scheduled for Buenos Aires on 30 November.