Seattle Sounders: What to know about MLS’s first Club World Cup participant

SEA 1 - Club World Cup 1.30.23

For the second straight year, Seattle Sounders FC start their season with a chance at history.

Seattle are Major League Soccer’s first-ever FIFA Club World Cup participant, a distinction they clinched after winning the 2022 Concacaf Champions League. That triumph marked the first time an MLS club claimed the CCL crown in the continental club tournament’s modern incarnation. Beyond the achievement’s historic nature and subsequent bragging rights, a Club World Cup spot might have been Seattle’s most significant reward.

Now, the Sounders will face fellow Champions League winners from federations representing each continent, plus one team from the tournament's host nation (Morocco). The Rave Green will test themselves against elite global talent, a new opportunity in MLS’s 28-year history.

Before Seattle play Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly on Feb. 4 in Tangier, Morocco (12 pm ET | FS2, FOX Deportes), here’s everything to know about MLS’s debut Club World Cup competitor.

The path to the Club World Cup (Concacaf Champions League)

Seattle’s road to CCL glory was far from easy, forcing them to beat two different Liga MX opponents, as well as an MLS foe that, at the time, was the defending league champion.

The journey started against Honduran outfit FC Motagua in the Round of 16 (5-0 aggregate win), then they ultimately beat Pumas UNAM (5-2 aggregate win) in front of a record crowd of nearly 69,000 onlookers at Lumen Field.

Round of 16 (vs. FC Motagua - Honduras)

  • Leg 1: 0-0 draw
  • Leg 2: 5-0 win
  • Aggregate: 5-0 Seattle

Quarterfinals (vs. Club Leon - Mexico)

  • Leg 1: 3-0 win
  • Leg 2: 1-1 draw
  • Aggregate: 4-1 Seattle

Semifinals (vs. New York City FC - MLS)

  • Leg 1: 3-1 win
  • Leg 2: 1-1 draw
  • Aggregate: 4-2 Seattle

Final (vs. Pumas UNAM - Mexico)

  • Leg 1: 2-2 draw
  • Leg 2: 3-0 win
  • Aggregate: 5-2 Seattle
Star players

The Uruguayan No. 10 remains the club’s engine at age 34 as he enters his eighth MLS season. Lodeiro has been one of the league’s best playmakers since his 2016 arrival from Boca Juniors, racking up an eye-popping 40g/70a in 158 MLS regular-season games.

It’s not just his contributions on the scoresheet, though. Few attacking players in the league offer as much of a two-way presence as Lodeiro, making the captain central to everything the Sounders do.

A two-time Golden Boot winner in Liga MX with Morelia before his arrival to Seattle, Ruidíaz has been one of the most efficient No. 9s in MLS the past five seasons, racking up 59 league goals in 97 games (88 starts).

Few are as ruthless in the box as the Peruvian international, who’s earned a reputation for spectacular, highlight-reel strikes and having a flair for the dramatic, with many of his goals coming in the most important moments (9g/6a in 11 Audi MLS Cup Playoff matches and 3g/1a in last year's CCL).

Seattle’s Brazilian No. 6 tore his ACL in last year’s CCL Final, but has been training with the club in preseason and could make his return during the Club World Cup. Should that happen, the Sounders would regain a 2021 MLS MVP finalist and one of the most well-rounded two-way players in MLS.

João Paulo offers a unique skill set, starting with his duties in the defensive midfield, where the 31-year-old is a classic “dirty work” type of player, willing to make hard-charging slide tackles and cover as much ground as necessary to cut out opposing attacks. He’s also a phenomenally gifted passer, particularly adept at hitting free kicks and serving pinpoint long balls and switches that unbalance defenses and start promising attacks.

A native of Mercer Island, Washington and a Sounders Academy product, Morris has dealt with two major knee injuries during his professional career. But he’s been a force in MLS when healthy, posting 42 goals and 24 assists across 136 regular-season games.

The US international just represented his country at the 2022 FIFA World Cup and, fresh off a new contract extension, he’s slated to resume his role as a focal point of Seattle’s attack.

A true jack-of-all-trades player, Roldan has slotted just about everywhere on the field for Seattle since his arrival as a 2015 MLS SuperDraft pick from the University of Washington. Originally a deeper-lying defensive midfielder, Roldan spent much of the 2022 season as a right-sided wide attacker for the Sounders, putting up 4g/5a in 26 appearances (22 starts).

Roldan is the definition of a do-everything player and, like Morris, is also fresh off a new five-year contract extension. He was on the USMNT’s World Cup roster, too.

Seattle have one of MLS’s best goalkeepers in veteran Stefan Frei, who’s entering his 10th season with the Rave Green.

He’s been the club’s unquestioned starter since arriving in a 2014 trade from Toronto FC, building up a trophy-filled résumé. Frei was named MLS Cup MVP in 2016 for one of the most iconic saves in MLS history – a full-extension, diving swat of a header from US international striker Jozy Altidore that allowed Seattle to eventually claim a penalty-kick victory.

Sounders CWC XI
Head coach

The Sounders are coached by Brian Schmetzer, who's been a staple of Seattle soccer dating back to his playing days, when he suited up for the NASL iteration of the club in the 1980s. After his playing days, he remained involved coaching the sport in his hometown, first at the youth and then the USL level, and in Seattle’s 2009 MLS expansion season joined the coaching staff of the late Sigi Schmid as an assistant. 

After Schmid’s departure midway through the 2016 season, Schmetzer took over and immediately led a historic turnaround that culminated in the club’s first-ever MLS Cup title. He’s been at the helm ever since, overseeing the club’s subsequent MLS Cup title in 2019 and last year’s CCL victory.

Last season

Ultimately, the 2022 season provided a stark contrast between Seattle’s greatest accomplishment as a club and their roughest season yet in MLS play.

Seattle missed the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since their 2009 entry to the league, snapping a streak of 13 straight years of postseason soccer in Seattle (tied with New York Red Bulls for the league record).

As much shine had come with the CCL title, a little bit undeniably wore off as the Sounders stumbled down the stretch.

Club honors
  • Concacaf Champions League: 2022
  • MLS Cup: 2016, 2019
  • MLS Supporters’ Shield: 2014
  • US Open Cup: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014
FIFA Club World Cup schedule
All games available on FS2 and FOX Deportes
Time, Location
First Round (Match 1)
Feb. 1
Al Ahly vs. Auckland City
2 pm ET, Tangier
Second Round (Match 2)
Feb. 4
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Al Ahly
12 pm ET, Tangier
Second Round (Match 3)
Feb. 4
Wydad Casablanca vs. Al-Hilal
9:30 am ET, Rabat
Semifinals (Match 4)
Feb. 7
Flamengo vs. M3 Winner
2 pm ET, Tangier
Semifinals (Match 5)
Feb. 8
Real Madrid vs. M2 Winner
2 pm ET, Rabat
Third Place (Match 6)
Feb. 11
Loser M5 vs. Loser M4
10:30 am ET, Rabat
Final (Match 7)
Feb. 11
Winner M5 vs. Winner M4
2 pm ET, Rabat