MLS: Galaxy Enters New World

The Los Angeles Galaxy hasn't won a domestic title, but it has a chance to win two international crowns in 2001.

It won the CONCACAF Champions Cup to qualify for this year's FIFA Club World Championship.

Clubs have been competing for international honors since the 1920s, but it wasn't until 2000 that soccer had an official club championship on a world scale.

The first international club tournament of note was the Mitropa Cup, which featured top clubs from Central Europe, where soccer flourished before World War II.

The Los Angeles Galaxy won more than the CONCACAF Champions Cup trophy. It earned a trip to the Club World Championship this summer in Spain and the potential of a big payday.

The European Cup, the brainchild of French journalist Gabriel Hanot, began in 1955 and was soon followed by club championships in South America (1960), CONCACAF (1962), Africa (1964) and Asia (1967).

The first, unofficial World Club Cup wasn't a world championship at all. The Intercontinental Cup, which began in 1960, pits the champion of Europe against the champion of South America. It found a permanent home in Tokyo in 1980 and was renamed the Toyota Cup.

There have been other intercontinental competitions - D.C. United won the Interamerican Cup (South America vs. CONCACAF) in 1998 - but nothing quite like the Club World Championship.

The first Club World Championship was played early last year in Brazil, where the two Brazilian entrants, Corinthians and Vasco da Gama, dominated the eight-team tournament.

EUROPEAN RESERVATIONS. Despite reservations from European clubs that the tournament conflicted with their crowded schedules - Manchester United pulled out of the FA Cup to travel to Brazil - FIFA has gone ahead with a second tournament.

To ease scheduling conflicts, the tournament has been moved to summer - preseason for most European teams - and the tournament will be played in Spain, which has a rich tradition of putting on preseason club tournaments to entertain summer vacationers.

FIFA has expanded the tournament - which will be played July 30-Aug. 12 - to 12 teams. They will be divided into three groups of four, and the three group winners and best runner-up will advance to the semifinals.

CONCACAF, Europe, South America, Africa and Asia each have two representatives. Oceania gets one, and the 12th team is the host country's reigning champion, in this case Spanish champion Deportivo Coruna.

CONFEDERATION REPRESENTATIVES. Each confederation uses its own criteria for picking its representatives.

CONCACAF went with the Galaxy and Olimpia of Honduras, the two finalists at the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

Europe has chosen Real Madrid, the 2000 European Cup champion. Galatasaray, the 2000 UEFA Cup champion, probably will be the second European team.

Palmeiras of Brazil and Argentina's Boca Juniors, winners of the last two Libertadores Cups, will represent South America.

Africa may send Ghana's Hearts of Oak and Egypt's Zamalek, winners of the 2000 African Champions League and 2000 African Cup Winners' Cup, respectively.

The J-League's Jubilo Iwata and Saudi club Al-Hilal, winners of the last two Asian Super Cups, will represent Asia.

The Spain 2001 field was completed Jan. 22 when Australia's Wollongong City Wolves won the Oceania title, edging Tafea of tiny Vanuatu, 1-0.

Like MLS's Galaxy, the Wolves have more than prestige at stake.

Wollongong officials say the cash-strapped club will earn an appearance fee of $2.5 million for competing in the Club World Championship.

No wonder the United States is thinking of getting in on the action and hosting the 2003 Club World Championship.

by Soccer America managing editor Paul Kennedy

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