South America review: Superliga almost decided in Argentina

Racing Club need one more win in their last two matches to ensure themselves the Superliga crown.

For most of South America, operating on an Apertura and Clausura schedule, the season is in its infancy. But in Argentina opted a few years ago to expand its league. It then decided three years ago to operate more closely in alignment with what is favored in Europe, making the Superliga a continental anomaly.

It certainly hasn’t impacted Argentine clubs in Copa Libertadores competition. In four of the past five seasons, a Superliga club made it to the final. Last year River Plate took the crown of South America with an emphatic takedown of Argentine rival Boca Juniors in a tumultuous final that concluded in Madrid.

This week we will look at the endgame taking shape in Argentina before glancing at a couple of other league races in this week’s South America review.

Down to two in the Superliga race with two weeks to go

Racing Club have the advantage of finishing off the season at home against Defensa y Justicia, and they only need one more victory to ensure they claim their first league title since 2014. They currently sit four points clear of the only team that can still catch them for the crown. A victory against Tigre, a club with wins in four of their past five matches, would ensure Racing the championship.

Defensa y Justicia can still catch Racing, but they did themselves no favors last week in Superliga play. The current second-place team in Argentina went to Patronato on St. Patrick’s Day and fell 2-0 to a team that has dallied near the relegation zone for most of the season. With second-half goals from Gabriel Carabajal and German Berterame, Patronato’s win put Defensa y Justicia four points out of the lead with two matches left to play.

That means Defensa y Justicia need Racing Club to lose or draw to Tigre when play resumes next week, and to take care of business with their own victory over Union in the home finale. That would set up a winner-take-all showdown at El Cilindro in Avellaneda on April 7 for the Superliga championship.

Sporting Cristal no longer perfect in Peru’s Primera battle

After a half-dozen matchdays, Sporting Cristal finally dropped points for the first time this season. Following wins in each of their first five matches of the Apertura campaign, Sporting Cristal were only able to manage a scoreless draw against Cantolao on the road when the two teams met on Saturday in Callao.

Even with the draw, however, the league leaders had plenty of space to spare at the top of the table. But now Sporting Cristal sit only one point ahead of Binacional, the southern club based in Juliaca near the shores of Lake Titicaca that are still only in their first decade of existence. Against Real Garcilaso on Saturday, Binacional snatched all three points after a late goal in second-half stoppage time from Diego Carabano.

A third of the way into the 17-week Apertura season, Sporting Cristal are one point clear of Binacional. Behind the duo, Universitario sit on 11 points after three straight wins and Alianza Lima are fourth on 10 points. There’s still plenty of time for more to shake out over the course of the campaign, but right now one of these four looks most likely to snatch the title.

South America World Cup to celebrate centennial in 2030?

Since the buzz first started in 2017, when Argentina and Uruguay first proposed a joint bid for the centennial edition of the World Cup in 2030, the prospect has grown into a pan-South American movement that added first Paraguay and now Chile to the bid. Other countries such as Bolivia could also sign on to the prospective host bid before the official FIFA vote, still a few years away.

Chile signed on over the past week, bringing on board the winner of the past two editions of the Copa America. Among the four countries now looking to co-host the tournament, only Paraguay have never previously hosted the World Cup. Uruguay hosted the inaugural edition in 1930, Chile hosted in 1962 and Argentina were the host team in 1978.

The question now becomes whether other countries opt to sign on to the bid. Logistically, the more that join on the more complex it will become to sort out travel and to determine who gets the honor of hosting the late rounds of the knockout stage, including the final.

Those are obviously concerns that can get worked out down the road. But after playing such a critical part in launching the tournament nearly nine decades ago, it would be fitting to see the World Cup return to South America in 2030 as a way of bringing the history around full circle.