Tuesday 11 April 2017, 14:02

The Road to UAE 2017

There may be several months to go before the United Arab Emirates rolls out the red carpet for the various confederation champions and the country’s league winners, but the race for places at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 is already well under way. In fact, it is almost over in some parts of the world.

With that in mind, FIFA.com rounds-up the situation as clubs around the globe vie for a berth at the tournament, to be held in Abu Dhabi and Al-Ain on 6-16 December.

The fastest start came in the CONCACAF zone, where their Champions League kicked off last August and is now about to reach its conclusion. Despite two Major League Soccer sides being in contention at the penultimate hurdle, it will once again be Mexico flying the flag for the region. Tigres UANL and Pachuca will face off for that particular honour, with the identity of the first qualifier for this year’s Club World Cup being revealed on 26 April.

Over in the UEFA zone, which has provided the last four Club World Cup winners, the Champions League has now reached the quarter-final stage. Figuring among the top eight sides on the continent are three Spanish and two German clubs. Will La Liga’s representatives make it four wins in a row and advance to the battle to be the world’s best? All will be revealed in Cardiff on 3 June.

A little under a month earlier, on 6 May, we will find out who will be flying the flag for Oceania in the Emirates. Having made a record seven Club World Cup appearances already, Ramon Tribuleix’s Auckland City will once again be firm favourites to win the OFC crown. One side intent on stopping them in a tournament that has attracted a record number of entrants is Team Wellington, Auckland’s opponents in the last two regional finals and New Zealand’s reigning league champions.

In Asia, meanwhile, 32 sides are currently battling it out in the group phase of the AFC Champions League. Having won the trophy nine times in the last 11 years, the Far East’s finest are expected to figure strongly once again, this in a year that has seen Chan Yuen Ting – the coach of Hong Kong’s Eastern Long Lions – become the first woman to take charge of a team in the competition. Adding even more appeal to a tournament that reaches its conclusion on 25 November is the arrival of a number of major international stars at China’s leading clubs.

In South America, the legendary Copa Libertadores boasts a brand new schedule and a record number of participants – 47, including the preliminary rounds – with Argentina and Brazil’s clubs looking to reassert their dominance after Atletico Nacional of Colombia took last year’s title. The CONMEBOL representative at UAE 2017 will be decided on 29 November. Their goal will be to succeed Brazil’s Corinthians, the last South American side to lift the world title, in 2012.

November will also be the month when we find out who will be representing Africa. The 53rd CAF Champions League features a group phase that has been expanded from eight teams to 16 and begins on 12 May. The tournament promises to provide yet another power struggle between North Africa’s best and the leading sides from west and central Africa.

Joining the six continental victors in the UAE will be the host club, the Emirati champions. Al Ain and Al Ahli, who have swapped the trophy over the last five years, will start out as favourites. Whoever wins through, they will no doubt hope to repeat the success of Japan’s Kashima Antlers at last year’s Club World Cup, where they advanced to the final and made the mighty Real Madrid sweat for their trophy win.