The Seattle Sounders won the Concacaf Champions League on Wednesday night, beating Pumas of Mexico, 3-0, to assert a 5-2 victory on aggregate within the two-legged final. The victory made Seattle the primary team from Major League Soccer to lift the trophy in a generation, and gave the US the continental title it has coveted for greater than 20 years.
It must also make Seattle the primary M.L.S. team to play within the FIFA Club World Cup.
Except that nobody, not even FIFA, is certain when that event will happen, or what it would appear like. The tournament’s traditional December window is unavailable this 12 months due to the World Cup in Qatar, and grand plans for an expanded Club World Cup in China have gone nowhere after they were announced after which promptly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“No clue,” one FIFA official said in a text message when asked when Seattle could expect to participate within the event.
The Club World Cup has been held annually since 2005, with representatives of every of FIFA’s global confederations facing off to find out a world club champion. Top European teams have dominated the event, with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Chelsea lifting the trophy within the last decade. Facing off against teams like that in a world competition has been a dream for a lot of M.L.S. players, executives and fans.
FIFA, which runs the Club World Cup, has been desirous to expand the tournament, and it put a plan on the table for a 24-team tournament shifted to the summer and held every 4 years as a substitute of annually. In a gathering in Shanghai in October 2019, it approved the change and awarded China the hosting rights for the primary edition in 2021. The coronavirus soon made that plan unworkable.
The pandemic-delayed 2021 Club World Cup that was held in February, and won by Chelsea, was nominally the ultimate one under the old, smaller format. Holding one other one in 2022 could possibly be problematic, with league schedules already being squeezed by the enforced break attributable to the World Cup that opens in November. There was talk of holding the primary expanded version in the summertime of 2023, but as of now there isn’t a official date for the event.
Under the unique plans for the expanded tournament, three teams from the Concacaf region — covering North and Central America and the Caribbean — would participate. Certainly one of them presumably can be the Sounders after Wednesday’s victory, although the official qualifying criteria has not been announced.
An American team has nearly played within the Club World Cup once before. The very first Club World Cup, in 2000, was an eight-team event in Brazil. That 12 months was the last one wherein an American team, the Los Angeles Galaxy, won the continental championship. So for the 2001 world event, expanded to 12 teams, the Galaxy was duly entered alongside Real Madrid and other teams from world wide.
But financial concerns and the collapse of a sponsor led the event to be scrapped. It was revived in 2005 in its current format. Too late for the Galaxy. Mexican and Costa Rican teams — to the immense frustration of M.L.S. — have won the title every 12 months since.
Now that the Sounders have broken that streak, they and M.L.S. will hope the newly expanded event — each time it’s held, and whatever it looks like — goes more easily.
Tariq Panja contributed reporting.