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Club World Cup explained: Sounders opponents, team breakdown and tournament history

The Sounders will become MLS' first-ever representative in the Club World Cup on Saturday morning.
Credit: AP
United States' Seattle Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz (9) celebrates his goal with teammates midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) and midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro, third from right, during the second half of the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League soccer final against Mexico's Pumas, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders are a few days away from making history.

As Major League Soccer (MLS)'s first-ever representative in the Club World Cup, the Sounders have the opportunity to improve its standing globally in the competition.

Before the tournament begins on Saturday morning, let's explain what the Club World Cup is, analyze the Sounders team and preview the other clubs vying for the trophy.

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 is 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, Morocco on Feb. 4. The match will kick off at 9 a.m. PST.

Seattle will face Egpyt's Al Ahly in the first round of the tournament.

Where can I watch the Sounders this weekend?

There are several watch parties across Seattle to watch Saturday morning's match.

The Sounders' official watch party is at The Armory in Seattle Center. 

The club suggests RSVPing for the event, but fans will be allowed on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8 a.m. PST. 

Other places to watch the Sounders match include Queen Anne Beer Hall, Berliner Pub in Renton and Rough & Tumble in Ballard. 

Which Sounders should I watch in the game?

The Sounders have one of the more balanced squads in Major League Soccer (MLS), with several players leading the way.

  • Nicolas Lodeiro, midfielder: Since arriving in the MLS in 2016, Lodeiro has been the creative fulcrum for the Sounders attack. He's totaled 40 goals and 70 assists in his 158 MLS regular season games. When Lodeiro is playing at his best, the Sounders' offense reaches its peak potential.
  • João Paulo, midfielder: The Brazillian tore his ACL in the Sounders' CCL victory over Pumas and has not played since. He's back in training, however, and he could make his return in the Club World Cup, which would inject more offensive firepower. Paulo was a 2021 MLS MVP finalist when he recorded three goals and eight assists as a persistent defensive midfielder. Among his midfielder peers, Paulo is in the 94th percentile in non-penalty goals and 97th in passes attempted, according to fbref.com.
  • Raúl Ruidíaz, forward: Ruidíaz is a ruthless finisher at the front of the Sounders attack. The 5-foot-5 Peruvian forward has scored 59 league goals in 97 MLS games. He is coming off his season-low scoring output (nine goals) in 2022, after eight consecutive seasons with double-digit goals in the Mexican, Peru and MLS leagues.
  • Stefan Frei, goalkeeper: Seattle's No. 1 goalkeeper slot has been unquestioned since Frei arrived in 2014. The 2016 MLS Cup MVP has a penchant for making big saves in important moments.
  • Cristian Roldan, midfielder: The 26-year-old has only ever played for the Sounders. Roldan just signed another five-year contract extension to remain with the club, as he looks to link up with Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris in the forward line.
  • Jordan Morris, forward: Morris is still working himself back into form after another major knee injury derailed his career trajectory. The latest knee injury cut his 2021 season to just two games. The Mercer Island native offers a burst pace on the left side of the Sounders attack, scoring 42 goals in his MLS career. Morris, who has also only played for the Sounders, signed a five-year extension to stay with the club long-term in the offseason.

Tell me more about the Sounders' opponent

Al Ahly advanced to the next round of the tournament after its 3-0 victory over New Zealand's Auckland City on Wednesday.

The Egyptian club has qualified for the Club World Cup eight times in its history. Wydad won hosting rights for the tournament, meaning Al Ahly was allowed to participate despite falling short in the African Champions League Final. 

Al Ahly is leading its respective league by six points at the moment. The club finished third in the 2006 Club World Cup, the best finish in its history.

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

If the Sounders beat Al Ahly, 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 format

While the Club World Cup isn't as prestigious as the UEFA 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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