Goalkeepers Stefan Cleveland and Stefan Frei (followed by assistant coach Preki) lead the Sounders into their Tangier, Morocco, lodging.
The Seattle Sounders open their FIFA Club World Cup journey against Egyptian club Al Ahly on Saturday, with the winner earning a semifinal date with Real Madrid.
The Sounders, who prepared for the tournament in Marbella, Spain, arrived in Morocco on Thursday. On Wednesday, Al Ahly advanced with a convincing 3-0 win over Auckland City.
Hussein El-Shahat scored the opener just before halftime. Forward Mohamed Sherif and South African forward Percy Tau added goals in the second half to secure the victory as Al Ahly outshot the New Zealand club 21-3.
Coach Brian Schmetzer receives a gift ball upon arriving in Morocco.
While the Sounders are the first U.S. team to compete at the Club World Cup, Al Ahly is making its eighth appearance.
“We definitely don’t look past Al Ahly," Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. "They're very experienced. For them, this is charted territory so we have to give them the utmost respect. ... Ahly looked good and it seems that it has a lot of technically gifted players [including] attacking outside backs."
Al Ahly, the 42-time Egyptian and 10-time African champion finished third at the last two Club World Cups, and in 2006. Swiss coach Marcel Koller took the helm last September and celebrated an Egyptian Super Cup win a month later.
Sherif is Al Ahly’s leading goalscorer this season with 6 goals in 17 games in all competitions, goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy started for Egypt at the 2018 World Cup, and Mali's Aliou Dieng runs the midfield.
Since its historic Concacaf Champions League success of 2022, the Sounders added Brazilian forward Heber (31), who spent the past four seasons with NYCFC (26 goals and six assists in 74 games). In 2022, Heber's hot streak included scoring 11 goals in 1,500 minutes across all competitions.
Kelyn Rowe and Cristian Roldan during preparations in Marbella, Spain.
“I think we have earned our spot to be here as we played some tough teams in Concacaf," Seattle's Alex Roldan said. "Being the first MLS team, there will be pressure on us. The way we respond is the most important part as the pressure is coming from outside not inside.”
The players during the Wednesday press conference also acknowledged the role of their fans in getting them to this point. Seattle’s Lumen Field was packed by 68,741 for the return leg of the Concacacf Champions League final, a 3-0 win over UNAM Pumas for a 5-2 aggregate victory.
“To fans, congratulations! Thanks for your support. We have reached the world stage, which is a massive achievement. We are doing everything to make you proud this weekend,” Frei said.
• The Sounders have sold 300 tickets to fans seeking to attend the match at the Grand Stade de Tanger in Tangier. The MLS team is hosting a free watch party for fans at the Seattle Center Armory starting at 8:00 am PT on Saturday and will continue hosting watch parties provided the Sounders advance.
WEDNESDAY, February 1
Al Ahly 3 Auckland City 0
SATURDAY, February 4
Wydad Casablanca-Al Hilal 9:30 am.
Seattle-Al Ahly 12 noon.
TUESDAY, February 7
Flamengo-Wydad Casablanca or Al Hilal 2 pm.
WEDNESDAY, February 8
Seattle or Al Ahly-Real Madrid 2 pm.
SATURDAY, February 11
Third place 10:30 am
Final 2 pm.
TV: Fox Sports and Fox Deportes. All times ET.
• Seattle Sounders (USA) — 2022 Concacaf Champions League winner (North & Central America, Caribbean). Debutant.
• Real Madrid (Spain) — 2022 UEFA Champions League winner (Europe). Five-time club world champion (2002, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018).
• Flamengo (Brazil) — 2022 Copa Libertadores winner (South America). Club World Cup runner-up (2019).
• Auckland City (New Zealand) — 2022 OFC Champions League winner (Oceania). Best Club World Cup finish: third place (2014).
• Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) — 2022 CAF Champions League winner (Africa). One previous Club World Cup appearance: sixth place (2017)
• Al Ahly (Egypt) — 2022 CAF Champions League runner-up, awarded Morocco's home-team slot because Wydad qualified as CAF champion. Best Club World Cup finish: third place (2006, 2020, 2021).
• Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia) — 2021 AFC Champions League (Asia). Best Club World Cup finish: third place (2019)
Photos by Mike Fiechtner (2) & Connor Pickett/Sounders FC Communications