As the 2022 AFC Champions League is still underway, the federation decided on Friday to nominate previous champion Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal to be their representative at the upcoming Club World Cup in February. Al-Hilal finished sixth in the 2021 Club World Cup, losing to Chelsea and Monterrey. This will be their third overall appearance.
Previously, FIFA announced that the CWC would run from Feb. 1-11 in Morocco. They have not yet announced the actual match dates or locations. The Seattle Sounders are expected to enter in the second round and face one of the following teams — Al-Hilal (AFC), Wydad Casablanca (CAF) or the winner of Al-Ahly (CAF2) vs. Auckland City (Oceania). Winners advance to the semifinals against Real Madrid (UEFA) or Flamengo (CONMEBOL). There is a losers’ bracket that features the losers from the second round facing off to determine fifth and sixth place.
Although the East Region of the AFC Champions League has already been completed with Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds awaiting an opponent since August, the West Region has been stalled since the group stage ended in April and the Round of 16 isn’t scheduled to begin until Feb. 19. Al-Hilal went 4-1-1 in the group stage to win their group and won the Saudi Professional League in 2021-22. They currently sit third in the table nine games into the 2022-23 season. They are the most decorated team in Asia with 65 trophies, including 18 Saudi Professional League titles.
Al Hilal is rumored to be signing accused rapist Cristiano Ronaldo. The case was dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct. Ronaldo is currently available for a free transfer after he disparaged Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag and the club mutually agreed to terminate his contract.
The Sounders open preseason on Jan. 4. They have not yet announced their preseason plans or schedule for traveling to Morocco for the Club World Cup. Their MLS season starts on Feb. 26.