Sounders opponent for Club World Cup opener in Morocco still a mystery after draw Friday

The Sounders will have to wait to find out their opponent but will play on Feb. 4 in the FIFA men’s Club World Cup in Morocco.

Soccer’s governing body held the draw for the event at 3 am PT on Friday from the Mohammed VI Football Academy in Morocco. Seattle was the first team pulled and will play the winner of the seven-team tournament’s previously scheduled opener between Auckland City-Al Ahly, which will be played Feb. 1.

FIFA didn’t announce times for the matches or the stadiums during the draw. It is rumored to be played at either the 65,000-seat Stade Ibn Batouta in Tangier or the 60,000-seat Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, which is the country’s capital.

The North African coastal cities are approximately three hours apart.

“For those players that can’t play in a World Cup with their national teams, this is something that is comparable with that,” said Sounders forward Fredy Montero. “I’m blessed to be part of this team and we’re ready to make history once again with this club.”

ACFC is based in New Zealand and won the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Champions League for a record 10th time. They have the most all-time Club World Cup appearances but have never won.

Egypt’s Al Ahly is the Confederation of Africa (CAF) Champions League runner-up. The host country receives the seventh and final berth and since Morocco’s Wydad AC, which is based in Casablanca, qualified as the CAF Champions League winner, their rival will fill the slot.

Al Ahly hold the Club World Cup tournament’s record for all-time matches played (18), yet have never won in their seven appearances.

Seattle, which opened training camp last week, advanced by winning the CONCACAF Champions League trophy in May 2022. Last year’s Round of 16 in the regional tournament featured teams from Canada, Mexico and Central America. The Sounders defeated Liga MX side Pumas UNAM 3-0 in front of 68,741 people at Lumen Field to become the first MLS club to win a CCL title and first from the US to compete in the Club World Cup.

With midfielders Joao Paulo (ACL) and Obed Vargas (back) fully healed from injuries suffered last season — Joao Paulo in the opening half against Pumas — the Sounders can field the same starting lineup that won the CCL finale.

“We do have enough talent to compete,” said Craig Waibel, the Sounders general manager and chief soccer officer. “I’m not going to make an absurd statement if we were to advance and play Real Madrid we’re going to match up man-to-man. But at the same time, we like our group.”

If the Sounders advance, they’ll get a chance at Real Madrid CF in the semifinals on Feb. 8, according to Friday’s draw. The championship match is slated for Feb. 11.

The Spanish side won the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) Champions League. Real Madrid has won a record four Club World Cup titles. The last was in 2018 and the maiden trophy was in Morocco in 2014.

Feburary’s event is Morocco’s third time hosting the tournament, the last in 2014.

The Sounders will move their training camp to Spain later this month for scrimmages against Spanish clubs as their final prep for the Club World Cup. Seattle plays its MLS opener against Colorado on Feb. 26 at Lumen Field.

“That competitive match is coming up very, very quickly and it’s on a big stage,” Sounders keeper Stefan Frei said. “We’re going to want to do well for ourselves, for the history that it is for the league and for everybody.

“We’re going to treat it as such, so that gives you already kind of a first big moment that you have to prepare for — deal with emotions, deal with butterflies. Prepare for with nutrition and things like that. It should be a test-run for when the (MLS) season starts for sure.”

This story will be updated

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