The Seattle Sounders make their FIFA Club World Cup debut on Saturday with Egyptian side Al Ahly standing in the way of the MLS side’s quest of reaching the semifinals.
Brian Schmetzer’s squad will take on Al Ahly after the Egyptian side defeated New Zealand’s Auckland City 3-0 in Wednesday’s first round opener in Tangier, Morocco. The winner of Saturday’s contest will face the toughest test in Morocco, with defending UEFA Champions League winners Real Madrid opposing either the Sounders or Al Ahly.
Hussein El Shahat struck just before halftime at Ibn Batouta Stadiu for Al Ahly before Mohamed Sherif and Percy Tau sealed the victory in the second half. Al Ahly is three-time FIFA Club World Cup third-place finishers, as well as 42-time Egyptian Premier League winners.
The Sounders qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup after defeating Liga MX side Pumas 5-2 on aggregate in the Concacaf Champions League Final last April-May. It was the first time an MLS club had lifted the CCL title in tournament history.
Despite lifting the CCL title, the Sounders struggled for consistency in MLS, failing to reach the league playoffs last fall. Schmetzer will still have several key players to call on in Morocco including Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Cristian Roldan.
Brazilian forward Heber was the lone acquisition by the Sounders this offseason.
On the other side of the bracket, Moroccan side Wydad AC faces off with Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal on Saturday, with the winner taking on Brazilian heavyweights Flamengo on Feb. 7.
Real Madrid is four-time winners of the competitions, while all of the remaining teams will be seeking to lift the FIFA Club World Cup trophy for the first time.
Not even in pre-season yet, it will be very difficult for the Sounders.
And it looks like Al Ahly is midseason…though they appear to have a match the day before the Sounders match
They’ve training since beginning of January and did have split squad friendlies over the weekend with Wolfsberger and Hammarby but certainly will be far from in season form.