The Club World Cup begins on Wednesday as seven teams compete to become world champions.

Representatives from each confederation will take part over 11 days in Morocco, with Real Madrid favourites to end up lifting the trophy.

That is not to disrespect any of the other participants, but Europe's stranglehold on the competition simply cannot be denied.

Although South American teams won the first three editions in its current format, the only occasion in the last 15 where the Champions League winners have not triumphed was in 2012 when Corinthians defeated Chelsea in the final, the last time Europe's best did not succeed.

With four-time Club World Cup winners Madrid present, can anyone realistically stop Carlo Ancelotti's men? Stats Perform has taken a look at the other participants.

CONMEBOL – Flamengo

It would be fair to assume that, as the only other confederation to claim the prize, the South American representatives will always be seen as the biggest challengers to Europe.

Flamengo have participated in the Club World Cup before, having reached the final in 2019 only to lose 1-0 to Liverpool after extra time.

The Mengao have faced some recent upheaval with head coach Dorival Junior leaving despite winning the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores, just the third time they had prevailed in South America's premier competition.

Former Fenerbahce and Corinthians boss Vitor Pereira arrived in December and will be relying on star striker Gabriel Barbosa to fire his team to glory, as the ex-Inter man did when he scored the only goal of the Libertadores final against Athletico Paranaense in October.

Despite promising young midfielder Joao Gomes leaving for Premier League side Wolves, Pereira will hope his new team can at least make their way to the February 11 final when they face either hosts Wydad Casablanca or Al Hilal in the final four.

CONCACAF – Seattle Sounders

The Sounders are carrying the hopes not only of Seattle but of MLS as a whole. Due to a series of CONCACAF Champions League heartbreaks for American and Canadian clubs prior to Seattle's triumph last May, the league has had a long, long wait for representation on the world stage.

It is fitting then that the Sounders should be the team to do it, having broken so many barriers since arriving in MLS in 2009, selling out stadiums, enjoying instant success and signing big-name stars from European clubs.

Although the 2022 season saw the Sounders' ever-present record in the MLS playoffs ended, that was no reflection of the quality of this squad; injuries badly hampered Brian Schmetzer's side after their early-season focus on that successful Champions League campaign.

Joao Paulo is back fit again, Raul Ruidiaz provides a goal threat, Jordan Morris' pace causes problems for any defence, and captain Nicolas Lodeiro – a veteran of two World Cups – knits it all together.

The Sounders – and those watching back home – will be desperate to get through the second round and have a crack at heavyweights Madrid.

 

CAF – Wydad Casablanca

Otherwise known as Wydad AC, the Moroccans would have sealed their place regardless of being hosts after lifting the CAF Champions League in May.

Under the guidance of Walid Regragui before he left to lead the Morocco national team to the semi-finals of the World Cup, Zouhair El Moutaraji's two goals in the final against Al Ahly brought Wydad their third Champions League title.

Their record in this competition is less impressive, with their only previous involvement coming in 2017 when they were beaten by Mexico's Pachuca in the second round, before going down 3-2 to Japan's Urawa Reds in the fifth-place playoff.

Former Racing Santander and Birmingham City player Mehdi Nafti took over from Regragui after leaving LaLiga side Levante late last year, and Regragui thinks they can improve on their 2017 showing at least.

"I think the trap game is Al Hilal [second round]. If they manage to pass Al Hilal, they can go to the final against Real Madrid. Everything is possible," the Morocco coach told FIFA.com.

AFC – Al Hilal

The four-time AFC Champions League winners will compete with Wydad in the second round, with the winner going on to face Flamengo in the final four.

Ramon Diaz returned for a second spell in charge, and like several other head coaches at the Club World Cup, was not actually the one who lifted the trophy that got his team here in the first place.

Former Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim was in charge when Al Hilal beat Korea's Pohang Steelers in November 2021, before leaving by mutual consent to be replaced by Diaz.

Diaz is unsurprisingly the only former Oxford United manager at the Club World Cup, but the 63-year-old has plenty of talent to call upon in his quest for glory in Morocco.

Odion Ighalo and Luciano Vietto will be accompanied by a number of players from Saudi Arabia's impressive World Cup campaign, with Al Hilal looking to improve on their last CWC campaign when they were beaten by Chelsea in the semi-finals and Al Ahly in the third-place playoff in 2022.

CAF – Al Ahly

Al Ahly are also back again, somewhat fortuitously as they inherit Wydad's assigned host spot following the Moroccans beating them in the CAF Champions League final.

This will be the Egyptian side's eighth appearance at the Club World Cup, with their most impressive previous campaign seeing them finish third after beating Brazilian's Palmeiras on penalties in 2021.

Head coach Marcel Koller also played no part in his team's qualification for this competition, with the former Austria boss only arriving in September.

With a number of Egypt's national team players to call on, they will be hoping to repeat their previous meeting with Auckland City in the first round when they beat the New Zealanders 2-0 in 2006. 

OFC – Auckland City

This will be the 10th appearance for the Navy Blues, but they are back again after their 3-0 win against Tahiti's Venus in the 2022 OFC Champions League final.

That was overseen by head coach Albert Riera, not to be confused with the former Liverpool and Galatasaray winger, who took charge in December 2021.

Riera will be hoping to at least match his team's best ever performance at the CWC, when they came third in 2014 after winning on penalties against Mexico's Cruz Azul. 

It would take a momentous effort for anyone to stop Madrid, who somehow overcame Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool on their way to Europe's Champions League title last season.

Never say never, though.

Real Madrid could face Seattle Sounders in their Club World Cup semi-final following Friday's draw.

UEFA Champions League winners Madrid will enter the tournament in Morocco at the last-four stage next month.

Carlo Ancelotti's side will have to wait to learn the identity of their opponents, but it could be MLS debutants Seattle.

The Sounders are the first American team to reach the Club World Cup, having won the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League final against Liga MX's UNAM.

Seattle are to make their debut in the second round against the winner of the sole first-round tie between CAF runners-up Al Ahly and OFC champions Auckland City.

The victors in that match will then go through to face Madrid, record four-time world champions.

On the other side of the draw, Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo, who were finalists against Liverpool in 2019, are to take on either CAF champions Wydad Casablanca – also hosts Morocco's representative – or AFC nominees Al Hilal.

With the two semi-finals to take place on February 7 and 8, the final and third-place play-off will follow on February 11.

Pele would have surpassed the achievements of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo had he played in the modern era.

That is according to Jocky Scott, who faced the Brazil great in the final competitive game of his career in 1977.

Pele, who died last week aged 82, ended his remarkable playing career with a two-year stint at the North American Soccer League's New York Cosmos, helping them triumph in 1977's Soccer Bowl against the Seattle Sounders before hanging up his boots.

The three-time World Cup winner's abilities are often compared to those of modern greats Messi and Ronaldo, as well as the legendary Diego Maradona, but former Scotland forward Scott believes he should be recognised as the greatest to play the game.

"I think you've got to recognise different eras in football, and over the last 10 or 15 years with Ronaldo and Messi, they deserve the accolades they get for being the best players," Scott told Stats Perform. 

"But I think they're the best players of this era, or have been the best players of this era. 

"They are now coming to the end of their careers. Someone else will take on that mantle over the next 15 or 20 years but in my opinion, I will always say Pele is definitely the best player."

Scott added Pele would have achieved even more had he enjoyed the advantages of modern football.

"I think he would be better," Scott said.

"To be honest, I think any player like Pele, [Diego] Maradona, George Best, [Johan] Cruyff – attacking players who are great individuals and can all score goals – nowadays, with the way the game is played where you're virtually not allowed to tackle anybody, I think they would be much, much better players.

"Physically, he was a strong man and when you look back at pictures, way back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he played both in Santos and for Brazil, he got some abuse on the pitch.

"He used to take a hell of a lot of abuse, but he would still be there after 90 minutes and he would still shrug them aside and score the goals he scored.

"When I came up against them [the Cosmos] in America, that was in 1977. Pele at that time would have been 36, his physique was unbelievable. He could still play. In my era, he was the best player in the world."

While Scott was unable to prevent Pele from ending his stint in New York with a 2-1 win, he did manage to nutmeg the Cosmos man during their meeting – a moment he continues to cherish. 

"It's not something you think about during the game. It's just a case of there's an opponent, get the ball and get past them, and he pulled me back and fouled me," he said.

"Anybody at home that sees this picture and has a word with me about it, I just laugh and tell them I nutmegged him and that was him getting his own back, pulling me back and he didn't like it. 

"It doesn't matter who it was it but at the end of the day, it was a great picture for me."

FIFA has announced Morocco will host the next edition of the Club World Cup in February, at which Real Madrid will attempt to lift the trophy for a record-extending fifth time.

Madrid secured their 14th European Cup/Champions League title with a 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Stade de France in May, earning entry to a competition they won in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The other teams to have sealed qualification include Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo, CONCACAF Champions League holders Seattle Sounders, Auckland City and Al Ahly.

FIFA confirmed Morocco as hosts on Friday, and Moroccan side Wydad – who won the CAF Champions League under Walid Regragui last season before he left to manage the national team – will take part on home soil.

Morocco, which unsuccessfully bid to host the 2026 World Cup, has seen its Atlas Lions become one of the stories of the 2022 edition after Regragui led them to the semi-finals, where they lost to France, becoming the first African team to reach that stage. Morocco will face Croatia in the third-place play-off on Saturday.

The tournament will take place between February 1 and 11, 2023, with the final being held 10 days before Madrid take on Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The announcement came on the same say FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed the governing body is proceeding with plans to introduce a revamped 32-team Club World Cup from 2025.

Real Salt Lake and Orlando City both claimed Decision Day victories to book their spots in the 2022 MLS playoffs on a dramatic final day of the regular season.

RSL moved above Portland Timbers into the last playoffs spot in the Western Conference with their 3-1 victory, while Orlando achieved the same feat in the east after beating Columbus Crew 2-1 after a late penalty.

Pablo Mastroeni's RSL will take on two seed Austin in the first round of the MLS playoffs, navigating their way past Portland who started the day in sixth spot, but dropped to eighth, with Minnesota United also qualifying with their 2-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps.

Jefferson Savarino settled any nerves for RSL, who had claimed only three wins from their past 17 games, by curling in a 19th-minute opener before Rubio Rubin's deflected shot doubled their lead in the 48th minute.

Bode Hidalgo sealed RSL's playoffs spot with a classy finish in the 82nd minute, with Dairon Asprilla scoring a late consolation for the Timbers.

Minnesota, who will take on Dallas in the first round of the playoffs, got their win after Franco Fragapane's low 17th-minute drive. Jonathon Gonzalez added a second with a left-foot volley in the 77th minute to seal the Loons' spot.

Hany Mukhtar was confirmed as the MLS Golden Boot winner with 23 goals, although he did not score as Nashville locked in the five seed with a 1-0 win over Supporters Shield winners LAFC.

Teal Bunbury scored the only goal in the 53rd minute, with Nashville to face LA Galaxy in the playoffs. Galaxy beat Houston Dynamo 3-1 with Riqui Puig and Javier Hernandez among the scorers.

Facundo Torres converted an 84th-minute spot kick to send Orlando into the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the Crew. The Lions will take on Eastern Conference two seed Montreal.

Columbus came into the game one point ahead of Orlando and had gone ahead through Derick Etienne in the 38th minute.

Junior Urso leveled for Orlando in the 56th minute before Milos Degenek's handball led to Torres' decisive penalty, condemning the Crew to missing the playoffs.

Cincinnati clinched their spot in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, leapfrogging up into the five seed slot, with their 5-2 win at struggling DC United.

Brenner hit a hat-trick for Cincy, who will take on New York Red Bulls in the playoffs. The Red Bulls won 2-0 over Charlotte after Elias Manoel's double to secure the four seed.

Inter Miami lost 3-1 at home to Montreal, meaning Phil Neville's side slipped to the six seed and will take on reigning MLS Cup champions New York City. City beat Atlanta United 2-1 to clinch the three seed.

In other games, Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes drew 2-2, Chicago Fire drew 1-1 with New England and Austin and Colorado Rapids ended 1-1 after Diego Rubio's late equalizer for the visitors.

Eastern Conference winners Philadelphia Union thrashed Toronto 4-0 with Daniel Gazdag netting a hat-trick, while Western Conference three seed Dallas got past Sporting KC 2-1.

LAFC secured the Supporters' Shield for the second time in four years with Sunday's 2-1 win at Portland Timbers after Denis Bouanga's 95th-minute winner.

The Californian club capitalized on Philadelphia Union's 4-0 loss to Charlotte on Saturday, with Sunday's win moving them three points clear with one game to play. The MLS uses most wins as the first tiebreak if points are equal, with LAFC (21) ahead of Union (18).

Bouanga's maiden goal for LAFC came deep into second-half stoppage time and was the moment that clinched silverware, with the Gabon international jinking into the box before firing home a low shot.

Carlos Vela had a goalbound shot cleared off the line by Claudio Bravo in the 33rd minute, but the Mexican would not be denied with a curling left-foot strike from the edge of the box in the 51st minute.

Dairon Asprilla equalized with a powerful header from Bravo's 81st-minute cross, but Bouanga had the decisive intervention to clinch the Supporters' Shield for the visitors.

LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said: "These type of emotional endings in games seem to be a habit in this league, not quite sure why. We're ecstatic. We had a goal this year and we've achieved the first one."

Portland's loss meant Nashville clinched a playoffs spot for the third straight year despite losing 2-1 at home to lowly Houston Dynamo, for whom Sebastian Ferreira scored a double.

Seattle Sounders lost 1-0 at Sporting KC, confirming they will miss the playoffs for the first time in their 13-year history, marking the end of an era.

Reigning MLS Cup winners New York City made it back-to-back wins with a 2-1 home victory over Orlando City, who are hanging on for a playoffs spot.

The Seattle Sounders kept their playoff hopes alive by salvaging an important point in their 1-1 draw against Cincinnati on Tuesday.

Cincinnati were the better of the two sides based on expected goal data, tallying 1.98 expected goals compared to just 0.36 for Seattle in front of their home fans.

The visiting side took the lead in the 24th minute when Brandon Vasquez was able to take advantage of the Sounders' high defensive line, slipping a ball through for Brenner to run onto and he made no mistake with his one-on-one, calmly side-footing it inside the far post.

Seattle nearly equalised through a set-piece in the 35th minute, with Will Bruin rising well to send his header towards the bottom-left corner, only for Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano to deny him with a terrific save.

When the hosts did find the leveler, it was worth the wait, with a searing ball from Kelyn Rowe out of defense being controlled by Fredy Montero near the corner of the penalty box, before he unleashed a rocket high into the near-post corner.

With the result, Seattle remain five points away from the seventh and final Western Conference playoff spot, which is currently occupied by Minnesota. Cincinnati are much more comfortable, fifth in the Eastern Conference and four points clear of chasers.

Sporting Kansas City treated their home fans to an impressive 4-1 upset win against Minnesota United on Saturday, with William Agada netting a brace on his birthday.

Against the Western Conference's fourth-placed side in Minnesota, 12th-placed Sporting closed the first half in style, with three goals in the space of 15 minutes.

The first was courtesy of a friendly bounce, with a hard, low cross in the 31st minute being deflected by the Minnesota goalkeeper straight off the legs of centre-back Michael Boxall and into the back of the net for an own goal.

Johnny Russell then hit the post in the 41st minute, but was able to track down the rebound and dish one off for Erik Thommy in the box, who sidestepped a challenge before firing home Sporting's second goal.

Capping off a terrific first half, Ben Sweat whipped in a dangerous ball in the 45th minute for Agada to meet with his head, sending his side into the sheds leading 3-0.

Mender Garcia Torres was able to peg one back for Minnesota in the 57th minute, but Agada would put the game to bed with his second goal in the 81st, tapping in a smart low cross from Daniel Salloi.

Earlier in the day, in a battle between two of the Eastern Conference's top four teams, New York City won their local Hudson River Derby against New York Red Bulls 2-0 at Yankee Stadium.

The opening goal came just 50 seconds into the contest, when a corner was expertly flicked on by Santiago Rodriguez, giving defender Alexander Callens an easy close-range header.

City doubled their lead in the 23rd minute, and it was again the result of a well-worked corner, this time with Rodriguez on the receiving end of a floated ball that he was able to control and bring down before sliding it past the keeper.

It was a match bereft of chances in open play, as City finished with just 0.60 expected goals, while the Red Bulls had 0.71.

In a match with similarly few goal scoring opportunities, the top-ranked Philadelphia Union were the ones holding on for a point in their 0-0 draw away against non-playoff side Atlanta United.

Philadelphia could only muster 0.16 expected goals, while Atlanta United controlled 60 per cent of the possession and won the shot count 16-5, finishing with 1.30 expected goals.

Showing off some excellent finishing, Orlando City defied their 0.95 expected goals to hammer Toronto FC 4-0, netting two goals in each half.

The East's second-placed team, CF Montreal, were good enough to leave their away fixture against the New England Revolution with a 1-0 win, with Alistair Johnson finding the winner 72 minutes in.

Charlotte conceded goals in the third and 30th minutes to fall behind early against the Chicago Fire, but they rallied back and scored in the 68th and 76th to tie things, before stealing the points with a 96th-minute winner.

The league's top goalscorer Hany Mukhtar scored his 23rd of the season as he helped Nashville take a 1-1 draw on the road against Austin, while Cincinnati strengthened their playoff position with a 2-1 win at Real Salt Lake.

In the late window, the Vancouver Whitecaps rode two quick strikes in the first half to a 2-1 home win against the Seattle Sounders, while Chicharito was one of four Los Angeles Galaxy goal scorers in their 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids, and FC Dallas secured a hard-fought 1-1 draw with 10 men against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Javier Hernandez missed another spotkick before Riqui Puig took over penalty duties to net a season-saving 99th-minute equaliser in the LA Galaxy's 1-1 draw at Nashville on Saturday.

Nashville had gone ahead in the 28th minute from Hany Mukhtar's penalty but Hernandez was the centre of attention once again.

The former Manchester United forward failed to convert a 97th-minute penalty attempting a Panenka last Sunday against Sporting KC, spurning a hat-trick and winner.

Hernandez stepped up again in the 55th minute after being bundled over by Shaquell Moore but had his low shot tipped around the post by goalkeeper Joel Willis.

With their season on the line, the Galaxy earned a late reprieve after a penalty was awarded for a Walker Zimmerman handball following VAR review, with the defender receiving a second yellow card.

But Riqui Puig grabbed the ball and took the responsibility instead of Hernandez, before firing just beyond Willis' fingertips for the goal.

The result means the Galaxy are winless in three games and sit eighth in the Western Conference on 40 points.

Western Conference leaders LAFC stumbled again, suffering their fourth loss in their past five games with a 2-1 defeat to Dallas.

Jesus Ferreira boosted his claims on a spot in USA's World Cup squad with a double for Dallas, while LAFC were reduced to 10 men after Ryan Hollingshead's 13th-minute red card.

Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union showed why they are arguably the best team in the MLS with a 5-1 thrashing of Orlando City securing their fifth straight victory.

Lewis Morgan scored a 78th-minute penalty to help New York Red Bulls secure a 2-1 home win over New England to firm up their grip on third in the east.

New York City suffered their seventh defeat from their past nine games, going down 1-0 to Charlotte.

Brenner scored a hat-trick as Cincinnati extended their unbeaten run to nine games, winning 6-0 over San Jose Earthquakes

Thiago Almada fired in a golazo as Atlanta United defeated Toronto 4-2, while Inter Miami slumped to a third straight loss with a 3-1 defeat at Chicago Fire.

Seattle Sounders toppled Austin 3-0, Houston Dynamo and Sporting KC drew 0-0, Portland Timbers edged Minnesota United 1-0, Colorado Rapids beat Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 and Real Salt Lake and DC United ended goalless.

Los Angeles Galaxy wasted a golden opportunity to bridge the gap between themselves and the Western Conference playoff spots when they were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.

In front of their home fans, Galaxy got off to flying start when Chicharito got on the end of a terrific ball from Victor Vazquez to put him through one-on-one with the goalkeeper, and he made no mistake with his finish hard and low across the goal.

It was Chicharito's 200th club goal of his career, and his 33rd for Galaxy after arriving at the club in 2020.

That would be the only goal of the first half, but a penalty to Sporting in the 67th minute changed the complexion of the contest, with Johnny Russell equalising.

The visiting Kansas City side would have liked their chances of escaping with all three points after Felipe Hernandez gave them the lead in the 76th minute, but there would be another twist in the tale as Galaxy were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes.

Chicharito stepped up to the spot and tucked away his penalty high into the top-left corner of the goal, giving him 14 in 26 games this campaign, and he had a chance to make it 15 when there was another penalty given in stoppage time.

Trying to secure his hattrick and the match, Chicharito opted for the audacious panenka penalty, but was left red-faced as John Pulskamp in the Sporting goals did not flinch, catching it easily.

Elsewhere in California, Los Angeles FC had a much easier time in their 2-0 victory against Real Salt Lake to strengthen their position atop the Western Conference standings.

After a scoreless first half, LAFC were dominant after the break, with Ryan Hollingshead finding the back of the net in the 49th minute and Cristian Arango doubling the advantage in the 68th.

Carlos Vela also missed a penalty for the home side in stoppage time, but his side were good value for their win, producing 3.16 expected goals compared to just 0.29 for Salt Lake.

The win moves LAFC nine points clear of the chasing pack in the West, while at the other end of the standings, Houston Dynamo were bumped down to the bottom after a 2-1 loss away against the Seattle Sounders.

It was Houston striking first, with Daniel Steres breaking the deadlock in the 26th minute, and that score would hold until Nouhou Tolo's equaliser in the 59th.

A missed penalty from Nicolas Lodeiro in the 75th minute appeared to be Seattle's wasted chance to secure all three points in front of their home fans, but less than a minute later a terrific cross from Tolo found Fredy Montero at the back post the head in the winner.

With Houston losing again, the San Jose Earthquakes took the opportunity to shed the last-placed tag with a 2-0 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps, thanks to first half goals from Jeremy Ebobisse and Jamiro Monteiro.

Despite only owning 35 per cent of the possession and finishing with 0.36 expected goals, New England Revolution treated their fans to an emphatic 3-0 home win against New York City, with Jon Bell, 17-year-old Noel Buck and Thomas McNamara providing the scores.

In the highest scoring game of the day, CF Montreal came away with a 4-3 win despite two goals from Toronto's Lorenzo Insigne.

The Portland Timbers took advantage of two penalties to defeat Atlanta United 2-1, and DC United fought out the only 0-0 draw of the day against the Colorado Rapids, with Christian Benteke missing a penalty for DC.

Reigning MLS Cup champions New York City slumped to their fifth loss from their past six games as Christian Benteke debuted for DC United who claimed an upset 2-1 win on Wednesday.

City had ended a three-game losing run with a 2-0 win at Chicago Fire 10 days before losing to Orlando City on the weekend but their poor form continued at Red Bull Arena.

Ola Kamara tapped in from point blank range to give the visitors at 24th-minute lead, but Heber side-footed in an equalizer three minutes later.

Steven Birnbaum restored United's lead with a header from a Martin Rodriguez free-kick in the 57th minute and City could not find a response with David Ochoa palming away Gedion Zelalem's 95th-minute effort.

The win is Wayne Rooney's second since taking over at United who are still last in the Eastern Conference, while it sees City slide down to fourth in the east.

Riqui Puig scored a spectacular late equalizer with a long-range curler after a give-and-go to earn LA Galaxy a 2-2 draw away to Toronto.

Douglas Costa had put the Galaxy into a 24th-minute lead before Toronto hit back with second-half goals to Jesus Jimenez and Filippo Bernardeschi before the Spaniard's 89th-minute strike.

Riqui Puig was making only his third appearance for the Galaxy following his August move from Barcelona.

The result dents star-studded Toronto's playoffs aspirations, leaving them 10th in the east, while the Galaxy are eighth in the west.

Philadelphia Union became the second team behind LAFC to book their postseason berth with a 4-1 home win over Atlanta United.

Julian Carranza, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag and Nathan Harriel were all among the goals for Union who are eight points clear in the east.

New York Red Bulls moved up to third in the east with a 1-0 win at second-placed Montreal with Lewis Morgan hitting the winner in the 43rd minute.

LAFC suffered a shock 2-1 loss to lowly Houston Dynamo, who condemning the Western Conference leaders to their third straight defeat.

Inter Miami slumped to back-to-back losses with a 1-0 defeat at Columbus Crew, while New England's winless run extended to four games after a goalless draw with struggling Chicago Fire who snapped a three-game losing run.

Hany Mukhtar netted a hat-trick as Nashville beat Colorado Rapids 4-1, while Orlando City came from two goals down to defeat Seattle Sounders 3-2.

Real Salt Lake proved too good for Minnesota United 3-0 and Portland Timbers moved into the west's top seven with a narrow win against second-placed Austin 2-1.

Reigning MLS Cup champions New York City slumped to their fifth loss from their past six games as Christian Benteke debuted for DC United who claimed an upset 2-1 win on Wednesday.

City had ended a three-game losing run with a 2-0 win at Chicago Fire 10 days before losing to Orlando City on the weekend but their poor form continued at Red Bull Arena.

Ola Kamara tapped in from point blank range to give the visitors at 24th-minute lead, but Heber side-footed in an equalizer three minutes later.

Steven Birnbaum restored United's lead with a header from a Martin Rodriguez free-kick in the 57th minute and City could not find a response with David Ochoa palming away Gedion Zelalem's 95th-minute effort.

The win is Wayne Rooney's second since taking over at United who are still last in the Eastern Conference, while it sees City slide down to fourth in the east.

Riqui Puig scored a spectacular late equalizer with a long-range curler after a give-and-go to earn LA Galaxy a 2-2 draw away to Toronto.

Douglas Costa had put the Galaxy into a 24th-minute lead before Toronto hit back with second-half goals to Jesus Jimenez and Filippo Bernardeschi before the Spaniard's 89th-minute strike.

Riqui Puig was making only his third appearance for the Galaxy following his August move from Barcelona.

The result dents star-studded Toronto's playoffs aspirations, leaving them 10th in the east, while the Galaxy are eighth in the west.

Philadelphia Union became the second team behind LAFC to book their postseason berth with a 4-1 home win over Atlanta United.

Julian Carranza, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag and Nathan Harriel were all among the goals for Union who are eight points clear in the east.

New York Red Bulls moved up to third in the east with a 1-0 win at second-placed Montreal with Lewis Morgan hitting the winner in the 43rd minute.

LAFC suffered a shock 2-1 loss to lowly Houston Dynamo, who condemning the Western Conference leaders to their third straight defeat.

Inter Miami slumped to back-to-back losses with a 1-0 defeat at Columbus Crew, while New England's winless run extended to four games after a goalless draw with struggling Chicago Fire who snapped a three-game losing run.

Hany Mukhtar netted a hat-trick as Nashville beat Colorado Rapids 4-1, while Orlando City came from two goals down to defeat Seattle Sounders 3-2.

Real Salt Lake proved too good for Minnesota United 3-0 and Portland Timbers moved into the west's top seven with a narrow win against second-placed Austin 2-1.

Austin FC made a statement in their top-of-the-conference clash against Western Conference leaders Los Angeles FC, piling on three quick goals to open the second half of their 4-1 victory.

Incredibly, LAFC actually had more expected goals (1.58 to 1.02), but Austin were clinical with their difficult chances.

Austin opened the scoring in the 32nd minute through a picture-perfect direct free kick from Diego Fagundez, and it would be the only goal from the opening 45 minutes.

The second half was when the contest opened up, with the two teams combining for eight shots in the first half, before attempting 18 in the second half.

Austin's home fans did not have to wait long after the break to double their lead, with an indirect free kick this time leading to squaring ball back across goals, which Maximiliano Urruti was able to meet at the front post and loop over the LAFC goalkeeper with his glancing header in the 47th minute.

Urruti then took advantage of a mistake deep in the LAFC defense less than five minutes later, scooping up the loose ball in the penalty box and dribbling around the keeper to grab his brace, and make it 3-0 in the 51st.

Sebastian Driussi made it 4-0 for the hosts in the 59th minute, turning and hitting from a tight angle for his 19th goal of the MLS campaign, which is three more than any other player.

Cristian Arango nabbed a consolation goal almost immediately in the 61st minute, but that would be the only time they found the back of the net as Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver made four saves.

With the win, Austin have cut LAFC's lead atop the Western Conference to six points.

Meanwhile, the Portland Timbers held onto their position on the fringe of the West's playoff picture with a 2-1 home win against the Seattle Sounders.

It was the Sounders jumping ahead early through an eighth-minute strike from Yeimar Gomez, but it was all Portland in the first half, controlling 65 per cent of the possession and producing nine shots, while Gomez's goal was the visitors' only shot.

The Timbers were rewarded for their dominance with a penalty in the 41st minute, which Dairon Asprilla converted to head into the break at 1-1.

Possession flipped after half-time, with Seattle controlling 66 per cent in the second half, but they struggled to create chances.

Asprilla turned from scorer to distributor for the second goal, setting up Sebastian Blanco for a point-blank tap-in to go up 2-1 in the 51st minute.

The win leaves Portland two points clear of eighth-placed Los Angeles Galaxy in the race for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, although the Galaxy have three games in-hand.

Minnesota United lived up to their terrific away record with a 2-1 win against Nashville SC at Geodis Park on Sunday.

At home, Nashville were the betting favourites in the contest, but perhaps that should not have been the case as they entered the match with the worst home record in the Western Conference, collecting just 14 points from 12 matches.

On the other hand, Minnesota are the West's third-best team away from home, with 19 points in 13 matches, and while they have been strong recently – with only one loss from their past 10 games – Nashville have only one win from their past 10.

The road team took the life out of the crowd when Franco Fragapane put Minnesota ahead 1-0 in the 27th minute, getting on the end of a terrific ball from Emanuel Reynoso after a costly turnover in Nashville's defensive half.

Nashville would find the equaliser in the 61st minute, with Hany Mukhtar converting from close range on a sharp angle, but less than 15 minutes later Minnesota grabbed the winner.

It was another move orchestrated by Reynoso, finding substitute Joseph Rosales overlapping down the left-wing just two minutes after his arrival into the game, and his low cross made its way through a sea of legs to reach Alan Benitez for a tap-in at the back post.

The result keeps Minnesota in the Western Conference's top-four, while Nashville are now clinging onto the seventh and final playoff spot.

On the other side of the country, the Seattle Sounders had 69 per cent of the possession against Real Salt Lake, but could not make it count, ultimately going down 2-1 at home.

Salt Lake only had 36 per cent possession in the first half, but they created the only two shots on target, resulting in the game's opening goal when Sergio Cordova got over the back of the Seattle defense in the 32nd minute. 

Although Cordova's first attempt was saved, he was able to dance around a couple of defenders after the rebound came back to him and find the bottom corner.

A 62nd minute equaliser from Albert Rusnak had Seattle fans dreaming of a comeback win, but that was extinguished just two minutes later as Andrew Brody re-established the Salt Lake lead, which they defended stoutly until the final whistle.

The Colorado Rapids came from behind on the road to defeat the New York Red Bulls 5-4 in a thriller on Tuesday.

Within 10 minutes New York led by two goals, with Dru Yearwood finding the back of the net first when his shot from outside the box caught a deflection to wrong-foot the goalkeeper, before Aaron Long headed home Lewis Morgan's indirect free kick.

A costly mistake deep in defence gifted a goal back to the Rapids in the 21st minute, with Diego Rubio curling his right-footed effort into the far post, but the Red Bulls seemed to have all the answers, with Morgan scoring from the penalty spot seven minutes later to lead 3-1 after a half-hour.

Colorado ensured they would go into the break only trailing by one after a well-worked move from a throw-in resulted in a powerful low drive from outside the box by Keegan Roseberry in the 38th minute.

There were over 30 minutes of scoreless action to start the second half, before the Rapids seized control of the contest with two quickfire goals. Collen Warner equalised in the 77th minute, before substitute Michael Barrios put the visiting side in front three minutes later off a Rubio assist.

Dantouma Toure completed the comeback by making it 5-3 in the 89th minute, with a stoppage-time penalty to Tom Barlow providing the game's ninth goal.

Meanwhile, it was a very different contest at Lumen Field where the Seattle Sounders defeated Dallas FC 1-0 at home.

The only goal of the contest came from a first-half penalty, with captain Nicolas Lodeira calmly slotting it past the Dallas keeper in the 39th minute.

Cristian Roldan was at the centre of everything for the Sounders. Only two players completed more than 50 passes, and Roldan separated himself from the rest with 76 completed passes at an accuracy of 93 per cent.

With the win, the Sounders jumped up to sixth in the Western Conference, still three points behind fourth-placed Dallas, but with a game in-hand.

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