Christmas came early in Columbus. League MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto put on a master class in the title game in November, dealing three assists to help the Crew win their first league crown with a 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls. It was also the first MLS hardware for captain and U.S. national-team veteran Frankie Hejduk (holding trophy), who put the finishing touch on Columbus' win with a header in the 82nd minute off a Schelotto pass.
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The Sudamericana may be South America's second-most prestigious trophy, but that doesn't detract from what Internacional has accomplished over the past three years. Its victory over Juan Sebastián Verón's Estudiantes de La Plata marked its fourth international trophy since summer of '06, joining its Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup crowns. No wonder the Los Angeles Galaxy reportedly launched a bid for star striker Andrés D'Alessandro (holding cup).
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Eleven points off the pace at midseason, the Tricolor Paulista's recent domination of the Brazilian league looked to be coming to an end. But there's no substitute for experience. São Paulo clawed its way back to the top as would-be contenders like Grêmio and Palmeiras fell by the wayside. In the end, it was iconic keeper and club icon Rogério Ceni again lifting the trophy for the six-time champions.
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NCAA Women's College Cup
Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, April Heinrichs -- add Casey Nogueira's name to the long list of Tarheel legends. The junior forward scored two goals in the second half of the final to give UNC a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame, handing college soccer's most prolific program an unparalleled 19th title. As a freshman, Nogueira won her team the 2006 final as well, bagging a goal and an assist.
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NCAA Men's College Cup
Thrilling it was not, but the Terrapins again came through when it counted and proved they belong among the elite programs in the country. A 67th-minute winner by Graham Zusi (No. 11, lower left) was enough to dump North Carolina in the title match 1-0 and give Maryland its second NCAA title in the past four years.
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Through the first leg of the finals, Toluca looked like a lock to cruise to its ninth title: <i>Los Diablos Rojos</i> bagged two away goals in Mexico City and were heading home with record-setting keeper Hernán Cristante poised to hold down the fort. The 39-year-old Argentine set a mark earlier in the playoffs of 771 straight minutes without conceding a goal. But Cruz Azul shocked Toluca in the second leg, scoring two unanswered goals to tie it up. The matchup went to penalty kicks, and Cristante (lower right) re-summoned the magic, shutting down <i>la Máquina</i> and winning it for Toluca.
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German Bundesliga Winter Title
If you had bet money at the beginning of the season that newly promoted Hoffenheim would be leading the Bundesliga by the winter break, fans would have called you crazy. But thanks to the big software bucks of billionaire owner Dietmar Hopp, the German upstarts have shocked everyone thanks to a incendiary cast of big-game performers such as (from left) Demba Ba, Carlos Eduardo and St. Louis University alum Vedad Ibisevic.
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FIFA Club World Cup
Talk about a banner year. Man. United capped off its magical '08 by winning FIFA's year-end championships between the champion clubs of the world with a 1-0 win over Ecuador's LDU de Quito, becoming the first English club ever to win the event. Seven months earlier, the Red Devils become the first English club to complete a Premier League and Champions League double since 1999, a feat they themselves were the last to achieve.
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It took an extra two weeks of the season to break up a three-way logjam on top of the standings, but once again the Buenos Aires superclub came out on top. Boca lost to upstart Tigre in the final game of a three-team playoff, but won the title on goal differential after previously demolishing San Lorenzo. It's the 23rd league title for Juan Román Riquelme (far right) & Co.
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