The World Cup kicked off on Sunday, and will feature four Seattle Sounders players. Xavier Arreaga, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, and Nouhou Tolo will all be taking part in the month-long tournament in Qatar over the next four weeks.
Even though this past year wasn't the season many Sounders fans had hoped for, this winter could bring some joy getting to watch several of their players playing on the world stage.
Let's take a look at these four Sounders players and what their trips to the World Cup will look like.
Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador)
The 28-year old defender will be representing Ecuador in their fourth ever World Cup appearance. Ecuador is in Group A, where they are joined by the Netherlands, Senegal, and the tournament's host nation Qatar – who La Tri beat 2-0 in the opening game to give themselves a definite chance to make it out of their group (which they haven't done since 2006).
Arguably the biggest story in this group (and all of the WC) is the health of Senegalese superstar Sadio Mane, who will miss the entire tournament – a big blow to Senegal, who were a trendy sleeper pick in the buildup.
In terms of impact, It will be tough for Arreaga to carve out minutes at this World Cup as he sits behind Piero Hincapie (Bayer Leverkusen/Bundesliga) and Felix Torres (Santos Laguna/Liga MX) at the center-back position. Those are two of Ecaudor's best players, and with CB being the position it is (where you almost never substitute), it could be tough for Arreaga to get minutes.
Now I'll look at the rest of the competition in the group. Even without Mane, Senegal are still a strong squad featuring the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea/Premier League), Edouard Mendy (Chelsea/Premier League), and Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton/Premier League). Even though they might not be able to win it all without Mane, this is still a team that many will still pick to make it out of the group.
The Netherlands are the betting favorites to win the group as they are led by center-back stalwart Virgil van Dijk. Their squad also features the likes of the Barcelona duo of Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay (who was on fire in WC qualifiers). Ecuador will arguably have to play their best match if they want to get points from Holland. Even although they failed to qualify for the 2018 WC, the Netherlands still made it to (at least) the semis in back-to-back World Cups in 2010 and 2014 and will have the expectations of another deep run this time around.
Qatar qualified for the tournament automatically as the host nation. That does not mean however that they can be taken lightly. They are led by the likes of former Villarreal winger Akram Afif. Qatar is ranked #50 in the FIFA Team Rankings. While this might be low, it is ahead of the likes of Ghana (#61), Greece (#52), and Iceland (#62). It is also comparable to nations that Ecuador battled in COMNEBOL WC qualification such as Paraguay (#47) and Venezuela (#57). Qatar will also have the advantage of playing at home throughout the tournament, which will be to their benefit.
Arreaga is joined by LAFC trio Jose Cifuentes, Sebasitan Mendez, and Diego Palacios as the four MLS representatives on the Ecuador squad.
I honestly believe that this is a wide-open group amongst the Netherlands, Senegal, and Ecuador (with Qatar there as a danger to steal points). Ecuador have a really good chance to advance in my opinion (especially after the Mane injury). If they do, then they will be matched up with a team from Group B (England, USA, Wales, and Iran), where Arreaga could find himself matched up against some club teammates...