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Miami, Feb 1 (APP – UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 1st Feb, 2023 ) : The days when football clubs in the United States and Canada were confined to domestic competition, barely noticed by the rest of the world, are about to end. ..
When the Seattle Sounders take the field at the Club World Cup on Saturday, they will be 90 minutes away from facing one of the biggest names in world football – Spanish giants Real Madrid – in the official FIFA competition.
The Sounders need to beat the winners of the first leg match between Egypt’s Al Ahly and New Zealand’s Auckland City to make a clash with the 14-time European champions in Morocco’s Rabat a reality.
Unsurprisingly, the prospect of facing European superstar Carlo Ancelotti has captured the imagination in the Pacific Northwest city.
“The players are excited about it. They love the opportunity to be on the world stage,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said.
The Sounders are competing as winners of the CONCACAF Champions League, which until recently was the only official international competition open to Major League Soccer clubs.
This is the first time a team from the USA or Canada has played in a FIFA tournament for the continental champions.
It’s perhaps fitting that the Sounders are making history – next year they’ll celebrate their 50th anniversary, making them the oldest American club in MLS to have played in the North American Soccer League (NASL) and other leagues before their MLS debut. .in 1996.
MLS teams have not been far from successful in regional competition, with the Sounders’ victory last season marking only the third time a US or Canadian club has dominated the Mexican competition.
But the volume of international games for MLS clubs will increase significantly with the addition of two new competitions and changes to the Champions League.
In July, all MLS clubs will compete in the new 47-team, ConcACAF-sanctioned League Cup, along with Mexico’s Liga MX teams. The tournament is organized like the World Cup, with a group stage before the knockout games.
The winners of the tournament will advance directly to the Round of 16 of the newly formed 27-team CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) and the second and third-placed teams to the first round.
The Champions League also features Caribbean teams, who are selected through the new Caribbean Cup, and Central American clubs through their sub-regional competition.
The tournament, in turn, will be included in the Club World Cup, where more places are likely to be available for CONCACAF clubs with FIFA’s planned expansion from eight to 32 teams for the 2025 edition with clubs from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. to be
CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani considered increasing international competition important for the development of the game in the region.
“It will elevate clubs and leagues from CONCACAF and provide even more exciting regional competitions. It will also bring greater international relevance to our club competitions and a highly competitive pathway as clubs seek to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup and world succeed. stage,” he said after announcing the change.
If all these games weren’t enough of an opportunity for MLS teams to test themselves against international competition, Montagliani announced another competition last week.
Currently under the working title “Final Four”, the event will pit two CONCACAF teams against two teams from the South American CONMEBOL region.
While the exact details have yet to be worked out, it is likely that the two CONCACAF Champions League finalists will play either the Copa Libertadores finalists or the tournament’s champion and Copa Sudamericana runner-up.
Regardless of the final name or qualification route, it means American clubs have a chance to face South American football’s elite – if they can first beat Mexican rivals and other regional rivals.
The tournament will begin in 2024, and people familiar with the discussions say it is likely that this year’s CONCACAF Champions League and South American tournaments will already be used as a first step into the potentially lucrative games.
This all means that in 2025, a team that has been successful in the League Cup, Champions League and qualified for the Club World Cup can play up to 22 official international matches.
It’s a whole new world for clubs that were used to a domestic league with 34 regular season games before the short playoff campaign.