FIFA is apparently getting close to making a decision about where and when the 2023 Club World Cup could be staged and it seems like it could set up nicely for the Seattle Sounders.
Soccer’s main governing body had apparently been planning to play the upcoming tournament in the United Arab Emirates or China, but talks have not come to fruition. It now looks like the United States has emerged as the front-runner, according to a report in Spanish publication Diario AS. The seven-team tournament would be played during what is normally the MLS preseason and potentially conclude during the week of Feb. 6-12. It would also mark the first time the tournament has been played outside of Asia since the current format was adopted in 2005.
The tournament traditionally features the six confederation champions with a seventh spot normally reserved for the winner of the host country’s domestic league. Theoretically, that spot could go to the 2022 MLS Cup winner. But the last time the host country was already represented by a champions league winner — 2008, when it was held in Japan — the Asian Champions League runner-up was given that spot.
If that protocol is followed, Pumas UNAM would get the “hosts” spot. They would join the Sounders (Concacaf), Real Madrid (UEFA), Morocco’s Wydad AC (Africa) and New Zealand’s Auckland City (Oceania). CONMEBOL’s spot will likely be determined by the winner of the Copa Libertadores final between Brazil’s Flamengo and Club Athletico Paranaense on Oct. 29. The Asian Champions League final won’t be completed until Feb. 26, which could mean that Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal gets a second berth from their 2021 title.
The Diario story does not say where in the United States the tournament could be held, but one obvious candidate is Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium. The indoor facility has played host to numerous high-profile international friendlies, as well as recent Leagues Cup (2021) and Gold Cup (2021) finals. It would also be reasonably close to a host of venues in Southern California if multiple host cities were preferred (the Club World Cup has used as many as three host venues, but has used just one in recent years). Playing in the southwest could also set up nicely with the Super Bowl, which will be held at State Farm Stadium in Arizona on Feb. 12.