Thursday, March 30 2023

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — European champion Real Madrid is in line to face Seattle Sounders, the first-ever United States team to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup, at the next edition of the tournament in Morocco in February.

FIFA made the draw Friday for the 2022 Club World Cup that was pushed into this year from a traditional December slot by the World Cup that finished last month in Qatar.

Madrid is waiting in the semifinals for the winner of CONCACAF Champions League winner Seattle’s second-round game against either Al Ahly of Egypt or New Zealand’s Auckland City, which open the tournament in the first round on Feb. 1.

Flamengo, the Copa Libertadores winner, is in the other semifinal game against African champion Wydad Casablanca or Al Hilal.

The Club World Cup typically brings together the six continental champions and the host nation’s domestic title winner.

However, Moroccan league winner Wydad also won the 2022 African Champions League title. The second African entry went to the beaten finalist, Al Ahly, and not the runner-up in Morocco’s league.

Al Hilal won the 2021 Asian Champions League — and played in the previous Club World Cup last February, losing to eventual winner Chelsea in the semifinals — but was proposed again because the 2022 Asian champion will not be decided until May.

Morocco is hosting the Club World Cup in Tangier and Rabat, which will host the final on Feb. 11.

FIFA awarded tournament hosting to Morocco last month after it became the first African team to reach the World Cup semifinals.

Morocco was the losing bidder for the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. It could yet figure in bidding for the 2030 World Cup — either alone or working with near-neighbors Spain and Portugal, which were both beaten by Morocco in the knockout rounds in Qatar.

“This is also an opportunity to express the desire of our people and of our kingdom to be among those willing to host football’s greatest events,” Morocco soccer federation president Fouzi Lekjaa said Friday about the Club World Cup.


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The Associated Press


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