Tuesday 09 April 2024, 08:30

Mexican clubs in the driving seat in race for Mundial de Clubes FIFA 25™ place

  • One Concacaf place is still up for grabs at the inaugural tournament in the USA next year

  • Concacaf Champions Cup quarter-finals to be decided this week

  • UEFA Champions League last eight also gets under way

The race to claim the fourth and final Concacaf place at the inaugural 32-team Mundial de Clubes FIFA 25™ (FIFA Club World Cup 2025™) heats up this week as the Concacaf Champions Cup is whittled down to the final four, while the UEFA Champions League last eight also gets under way. In Africa, two places remain up for grabs after the completion of the quarter-final stage in the CAF Champions League. Mexican clubs are dominating the race to win the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup and join CF Monterrey (MEX), Seattle Sounders FC (USA) and Club León (MEX), who qualified by winning the three previous editions. Monterrey host Lionel Messi’s Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami (USA) with a 2-1 lead from last week’s first leg, while CF Pachuca (MEX) have 5-0 advantage over CS Herediano (CRC) as they entertain the Costa Rican side at the Estádio Hidalgo.

Jorge Rodríguez #30 of Monterrey celebrates

Club América (MEX) also enjoy a commanding lead against New England Revolution (USA) (4-0) following an away win last week and Tigres UANL (MEX) have a slight edge over Columbus Crew (USA), having drawn 1-1 away in the first leg. Should Monterrey win the title again, that would open up one place via the ranking pathway, which would be Philadelphia Union (USA). In Europe, five-time European champions FC Barcelona (ESP) must eliminate Paris Saint-Germain FC (FRA) in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final to keep alive their chances of qualifying, either via the rankings or as winners of this season’s competition. If Xavi's side lose the tie, then Club Atlético de Madrid (ESP) will be guaranteed a 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). The first legs will be played on 9 and 10 April with the returns one week later. There are no other teams in contention for the two remaining UEFA places.

Two places are also still open 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. One will go to the winners of this year’s CAF Champions League and the other via the ranking pathway, which will be either Mamelodi Sundowns FC (RSA) or Espérance Sportive de Tunis (TUN).

Both of those teams won their quarter-finals on penalties after 0-0 aggregate draws against Young Africans SC (TAN) and AS des Employés de Commerce Mimosas (CIV) respectively and face each other in the semi-final on 19 and 26 April. Both will qualify if Al Ahly, who meet Tout Puissant Mazembe (COD) in the other tie on 20 and 26 April, should win a record 12th title.

Fans of Esperance Sportive de Tunis show their support

In Asia, one place is still open for the winners of the 2023/24 AFC Champions League and one via the ranking pathway. Ulsan HD FC (KOR) will be guaranteed a 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.

Ulsan face Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN) on 17 and 24 April with Harry Kewell’s Marinos knowing that they can only qualify 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 USA. Additionally, if Al Hilal and Ulsan both advance to the final, Jeonbuk’s place at the global tournament will be secure.

Park Jin-seop and Kim Jeong-hoon of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors react

The group stage of the CONMEBOL Libertadores 2024 started 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.