Zimbabwe: Sundowns Chase Double Agenda

19 April 2024

Mamelodi Sundowns' African Champions League semi-final against Tunisian giants Esperance will not only determine who plays in next month's semi-finals, but also which of the clubs qualify for next year's new-look Club World Cup.

Esperance host the first leg of the semi-final against Sundowns in Tunis tomorrow with the return in Pretoria next Friday, April 26.

Africa has four places reserved at the expanded Club World Cup in the United States from June 15-July 13 next year, as the tournament has been increased to 32 teams as part of Fifa's vision to create a universal club competition to rival the UEFA Champions League.

The four African clubs will be the winners of the four Champions League competitions between 2021 and 2024 but be-cause Al Ahly of Egypt won two of the last three that has opened the door to one team who have not had Champions League success but has been perennial contenders.

Al Ahly won the Champions League in 2021 and again last season, while Wydad Casablanca won in 2022 so both have already secured their berth in the US.

The victor in this year's Champions League also goes to next year's Club World Cup, which also opens the door for TP Mazembe Englebert of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mazembe met Al Ahly in the other semi-final.

Sundowns are on course for this year's crown but if they do not win, they are also leading the points race for the last African slot at the Club World Cup.

That is being determined by a ranking of performances in the Champions League over the last four years. Sundowns top this ranking with 98 points and can only be caught by Esperance, with 90 points. Both teams will qualify if one of them or Al Ahly wins the Champions League.

That means that Sundowns will be going to the Club World Cup if they beat Esperance in the semifinal.

There are also other permutations.

They will also qualify if Al Ahly eliminate TP Mazembe in the other semifinal, irrespective of the result of their match against Esperance.

But if Mazembe beats Al Ahly and Sundowns lose to Esperance, then Sundowns will only go to a tournament in the US if Esperance beat Mazembe in the final -- SuperSport.

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