To set the pace/Coveted
This headline appeared on the FIFA.com website this week when describing the CONCACAF qualification section.
Mexico set pace as USA, Canada hold coveted spots
To set the pace means to start a race or a competition/tournament really quickly/well. In this case Mexico are three points ahead of the team in second place and six ahead of the team in fourth after only six matches - they have started really well and are setting the pace.
If we covet something it means we really want something, so in this example the teams in this qualification section really want to qualify for the finals in Qatar. Three teams qualify directly so Mexico, USA and Canada are in the coveted places/spots.