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2023 FIFA Club World Cup explained: Here's what this means for the Sounders

The Sounders will become the first club from the United States to ever play in the FIFA Club World Cup, which begins next month in Morocco.
Credit: Jimmy Bernhard, KING 5
The Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to be crowned the club champions of CONCACAF after beating Mexico’s Pumas 3-0 on Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Seattle Sounders were drawn to face the winner of Auckland City (Saudi Arabia) and Al Ahly (Egypt) in the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup, as the club is set to become the first United States representative in the tournament. 

But before the Club World Cup begins next month, let's answer some questions about the tournament.

What is the Club World Cup?

The FIFA Club World Cup is similar to the more popular World Cup, but it features club soccer teams instead of national teams in the tournament.

The winning clubs from each confederation's premier competitions qualify for the yearly tournament to crown the best club in the world.  

This year's tournament will be held in Morocco from Feb. 1-11.

When do the Sounders play in the Club World Cup?

The Sounders' second-round tie will be in Tangier, Morroco on Feb. 4. The match will kick off at 9:30 a.m. PST.

Seattle won't know its opponent until Feb. 1 when Auckland City faces Al Ahly in the first round of the tournament.

Who would the Sounders play in the next round if they win?

If the Sounders win, Seattle will face Real Madrid (Spain) in Tangier, Morocco on Feb. 8 in the semifinals. The match would kick off at 11 a.m. PST. 

Real Madrid is the seventh-best club in the world, according to FiveThirtyEight's Soccer Power Index (SPI).

If the Sounders win its first two games in the tournament, the club will play in the Club World Cup final on Feb. 11.

What other clubs qualified for the Club World Cup?

Seven club teams from around the world are represented in this year's Club World Cup. Here are the seven club teams in the tournament and which countries they represent:

  • Al Ahly (Egypt) 
  • Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia) 
  • Auckland City (New Zealand) 
  • Flamengo (Brazil) 
  • Real Madrid (Spain) 
  • Seattle Sounders (USA) 
  • Wydad (Morocco)

How did the Sounders qualify for the Club World Cup?

Remember when the Sounders beat Pumas 3-0 in May 2022 to claim the Concacaf Champions League (CCL) title? 

Winning the CCL title meant the Sounders were the best club across North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The prestigious CCL trophy is what gave the Sounders North America's only spot in the upcoming Club World Cup.

Is this a big deal for the Sounders?

Absolutely. For one, the Sounders will become the first team from the United States to ever play in the Club World Cup. 

The club already made history last year when it became the first MLS team to ever win the Concacaf Champions League in its current iteration of the tournament.

While the Club World Cup isn't as prestigious as the EUFA Champions League, which crowns the best club team in Europe, the global tournament does give the Sounders a chance to improve its standing on the biggest stage. 

What's the Club World Cup tournament format?

With only seven qualified teams, the Club World Cup employs a simple system familiar to Americans. Win or go home.

Real Madrid (Spain) and Flamengo (Brazil) are already qualified for the semifinals because they are the strongest teams in the tournament.

At most, the Sounders would play in three matches in the Club World Cup.

Who were the last champions of the Club World Cup?

The last nine Club World Cup champions all played in Europe. Real Madrid, the current European representative, has won the trophy four times, which is the most all-time.

The last non-European club to win the trophy was Corinthians (Brazil) in 2012. 

  • 2021: Chelsea (England)
  • 2020: Bayern Munich (Germany)
  • 2019: Liverpool (England)
  • 2018: Real Madrid (Spain)
  • 2017: Real Madrid (Spain)
  • 2016: Real Madrid (Spain)
  • 2015: Barcelona (Spain)
  • 2014: Real Madrid (Spain)
  • 2013: Bayern Munich (Germany)
  • 2012: Corinthians (Brazil)
  • 2010: Inter Milan (Italy)
  • 2009: Barcelona (Spain)
  • 2008: Manchester United (England)
  • 2007: AC Milan (Italy)
  • 2006: Internacional (Italy)
  • 2005: Sao Paulo (Brazil)
  • 2000: Corinthians (Brazil)

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