UPDATE: FIFA recently passed down guidelines that will no longer require clubs to release players if they need to be quarantined for at least five days. That would likely give the Sounders the ability to decline Ruidíaz’s call-up, but they could still choose to release him. As of yet, there’s no word on what the Sounders plan to do.
Raúl Ruidíaz was named to Peru’s roster for a pair of World Cup qualifiers next week. When that news first dropped, it was assumed that Ruidíaz could miss as many as half of the Seattle Sounders’ remaining matches.
Since then, it was revealed that MLS notified the Peru and Paraguay federations of its intention not to release players for some of those matches due to concerns about exposure to Covid-19 and subsequent quarantine protocols. CONMEBOL has since appealed to FIFA asking for rules regarding call-ups during international windows to be enforced. A report in the New York Times said FIFA has decided to side with the federations, which could result in players being suspended from competition for five days beyond the international window and clubs being fined.
That potentially leaves Ruidíaz and the Sounders in an uncomfortable position.
“The situation has not been resolved yet,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey told KJR on Tuesday. “We’re working with the league and the league’s first and foremost concern is player health and safety. They are trying to establish safeguards around testing when players are away, around travel. There are real safety concerns.
“Our hope is that FIFA will issue some guidance. So far, they have not. We’re trying to accommodate our players, the FIFA law and MLS concerns about safety. Hopefully by end of week we will have clarity.”
One of the key concerns around travel, Lagerwey said, is that while MLS teams fly on charters and don’t stay overnight for away games, players will fly on commercials flights and stay in hotels while on international duty.
Although Lagerwey did not suggest MLS was ready to defy FIFA, it’s notable that the potential ban would only be half as long as the league-mandated quarantine period. Theoretically, Ruidíaz would miss two fewer Sounders games — one more on each side of the international window — if he were suspended than if he were to play with Peru and then quarantine.