Here we go. The final week of the MLS regular season. Sporting Kansas City has already booked a playoff spot, but can still finish anywhere from 3-5.
The scenarios for each finish are simple. Sporting KC and the Columbus Crew each have 49 points but Sporting KC holds the first tiebreaker with more wins. The New York Red Bulls are currently in fifth place with 47 points.
If Sporting KC defeats the New York Red Bulls on Sunday (7:30pm, ESPN2, Buy Tickets) they will finish in third place in the Eastern Conference and play the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. A loss and Sporting KC will play in the Knockout Round game. A tie and our fate rests on Columbus' result vs. the Philadelphia Union.
Here are the MLS games that we'll be watching this weekend, including a few bonus national TV games:
1. Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo | Friday, October 24, 7pm CT | NBCSN
Two teams that are out of the playoff race kick off a packed weekend of Major League Soccer. So why should Sporting KC fans tune in between innings of the Royals game tonight? The answer is simple: National TV ratings are importance to the growth of MLS.
2. Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy | Saturday, October 25, 1:30pm CT | NBC
The MLS schedule makers could not have planned this any better. The Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy are tied atop the Supporters' Shield standings with one game left. That game happens to pit the two sides in what should be an epic match at CenturyLink Field.
3. Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union | Sunday, 3pm CT | UniMas
Outside of Sunday's match at Sporting Park, this is the most important match for Sporting KC fans. If the Philadelphia Union can earn a win or a draw, Sporting KC will only need to tie the Red Bulls to avoid the Knockout Round. That won't be an easy task for the Union, however, as the Crew have been one of the hottest teams in MLS under first-year head coach Gregg Berhalter.
For today's Throwback Thursday, we're not throwing it back to a picture, per se, but instead to a series of experiences that current Sporting KC players and coaches have had at tonight's CCL venue.
For many Sporting KC players, tonight's match will be their first in the vaunted Monster's Cave, home of 30-time Costa Rican first division champion Deportivo Saprissa. But it won't be the first trip there for everyone. Sporting KC midfielder Jorge Claros played at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in the 2007 Copa Interclubes UNCAF, while Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes and assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin each featured in matches in the stadium.
Claros' former club Motagua visited Saprissa in the first leg of the 2007 Copa Interclubes UNCAF championship. Motagua drew the match 1-1 in San Jose before earning a 1-0 victory at home to clinch the championship.
Zavagnin was a member of the 2005 Kansas City Wizards team that drew Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup. Saprissa defeated the Wizards 2-1 in AET after drawing Kansas City 0-0 at Arrowhead Stadium a week earlier.
Vermes is the only current member of Sporting KC's organization to have featured* Estadio Ricardo Saprissa as a member of the USMNT. Vermes' side lost to Costa Rica 3-2 in a World Cup qualifier on March 23, 1997. Overall, Costa Rica is 6-0 in World Cup qualifiers played at the Monster's Cave.
*Benny Feilhaber was a member of the 2009 USMNT squad that played against Costa Rica at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in a World Cup qualifier, however, Feilhaber missed the match due to injury.
We said the CONCACAF Champions League group stage would become more clear after last night's matches and it certainly did. Two sides - Montreal Impact and Pachuca - entered the night looking to finish with 12 points in the group and both came up short.
A young New York Red Bulls team that could not advance to the next phase of the tournament held the Impact to a 1-1 draw at Red Bull Arena. Meanwhile, in Honduras, a Pachuca side that looked so dominant through the first three games of the group stage was anything but Wednesday night, falling 3-2 to Real Espana.
So what does this mean for Sporting KC? Simple.
Sporting KC can not only win their CCL group, but they can finish as the No. 2 overall seed in the Knockout Round or as low as the No. 7 overall seed. Here are all the potential scenarios as well as the potential quarterfinal opponent:
- Win by 12 or more = No. 2 seed vs Olimpia
- Win by 11 = No. 2 seed vs Olimpia OR No. 3 seed vs Pachuca (based on # of goals scored)
- Win by 3-10 = No. 3 seed vs Pachuca
- Win by 2 = No. 3 seed vs Pachuca OR No. 4 seed vs Montreal (based on # of goals scored)
- Win by 1 = No. 4 seed vs Montreal
- Draw = No. 7 seed vs Club America
- Lose by 1-2* = No. 7 seed vs Club America
*Eliminated with 2-0 loss; 3-1 loss results in drawing of lots
And here's a look at the overall standings of the group winners. Keep in mind that the first tiebreaker is goal differential and the second tiebreaker is goals scored.
|D.C. United (USA)||12||+5||6||0|
|Club America (MEX)||10||+16||19||0|
|CS Herediano (CRC)||10||+7||11||0|
|Montreal Impact (CAN)||10||+3||6||0|
|Sporting KC (USA)||7||+5||7||1|
The final round of the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League group stage kicked off Tuesday night in dramatic fashion. Reigning CCL champions Cruz Azul were eliminated with a 1-1 draw to Alajuelense, while the Portland Timbers were sent home following a 3-1 loss at CD Olimpia.
And while Sporting KC won't take the field until Thursday night - in the last match of the 2014-15 group stage - the picture for potential quarterfinal matchups is starting to get more clear. As a reminder, the eight group winners that advance to the quarterfinal round are re-seeded based on their finish in the group stage (i.e. the teams with the most points earn the higher seeds with goal differential being the first tie-breaker). In 2013, Sporting KC won their group with eight points and finished as the 7th overall seed setting up a showdown with eventual CCL champions Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals.
While the picture will become even more clear after tonight's matches, one thing for certain is that Sporting KC can finish no lower than 7th overall. The club currently has seven points with one match to play and Alajuelense is locked in as the 8th seed after winning their group with six points. And after winning their group with 12 points, D.C. United can finish no lower than third overall. They can also finish as high as first or second depending on tonight's results. Both Pachuca and Montreal currently have nine points with their final match scheduled for tonight.
Here is a schedule for tonight's matches and what Sporting KC fans should be rooting for:
New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact - 7pm CT
The Impact have already won the group with nine points through three matches. Even with a win tonight, the Red Bulls can only reach seven points. With Sporting KC's max points at 10, a Red Bulls win, or even a draw, would go a long way toward Sporting KC earning a higher seed in the quarterfinal round.
Real Espana vs. Pachuca - 9pm CT
Pachuca has been the most dominant team in the group stage with nine points and a +10 goal differential through three games. Similar to the game above, Sporting KC will want as many group winners as possible to finish with nine points. With that said, if Pachuca wins tonight, they will clinch the No. 1 overall seed, thus limiting Sporting KC's chances of playing a team from LigaMX in the quarterfinal round.
Lastly, it's important to note that while Sporting KC has a three-point lead on Saprissa, earning a result in the Monster's Cave will be no easy take. Sporting KC will advance with a win, a draw, a one-goal loss or a two-goal loss provided we score at least two goals. If Saprissa wins 2-0 or by three or more goals, the Costa Rican side will win the group. If the Saprissa wins 3-1, both teams will finish tied and the winner will be determined by a drawing of lots. That would take place immediately after the game.
This is a lot of information to consume and it will all become more clear after tonight's matches. We'll provide another update in the morning.
Earlier this fall, the Sporting Club Network presented by Price Chopper opened the second edition of its Sporting Kansas City Youth Reporter contest. Hopefuls from around the Midwest submitted their videos explaining why they wanted to be Sporting Kansas City’s next Youth Reporter. After all the entries were reviewed, Carter Stuck, Miles Crosser and Sofia Stockwood were chosen to attend a Sporting KC training session at Swope Soccer Village. The finalists were able to take in practice alongside “The Voice of Sporting Kansas City” Cal Williams. At the conclusion of training, all three had the opportunity to interview their favorite Sporting KC players.
In the end, Sofia was chosen to be Sporting Kansas City’s next Youth Reporter. During Sporting KC’s match against Chicago, Sofia and her family enjoyed an exclusive gameday experience that kicked off with a private tour of Sporting Park. After visiting the TV truck to learn about all that goes into the production of a game, Sofia listened alongside Williams and Diego Gutierrez as they called the game live.
From there, Sofia was recognized on-field at halftime and received a rousing applause from the crowd for her accomplishments. The evening came to a close with Sofia meeting Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber at the conclusion of the match and observing the post-game press conference that featured Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes and Zusi inside the interview room.
“The entire night was so much fun,” said Sofia. “From the TV truck, to hanging out with Cal and Diego in the booth, to getting down on the field and of course meeting Matt Besler, who's my inspiration.”
Cast your vote below for the Man of the Match from Sporting Kansas City's 2-1 loss at the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.
With two weeks left in the 2014 MLS Regular Season, the playoff picture has become a lot more clear. Eight teams have punched their playoff ticket - including Sporting KC - with two more to go. Columbus needs one point from their remaining two games to clinch the final spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto FC needs to win their final two games, and for the Crew to lose their remaining two games, to clinch their first playoff spot in club history.
Over in the Western Conference, the Vancouver Whitecaps hold a one-point lead over the Portland Timbers for the final playoff spot. A Vancouver win this weekend coupled with a Timbers lose would secure the Whitecaps a playoff berth. If the Timbers can earn a point against Real Salt Lake, their playoff fate will go down to the final weekend.
So how does this all relate to Sporting KC? Well even though we are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, seeding is still up for grabs. Sporting KC can still finish anywhere from first to fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Sporting KC's penultimate regular season match will be Saturday evening when they take on the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. The match will kick off at 6pm CT and can be seen locally on KMCI TV's 38 the Spot and across the Midwest on SKCTV.
Here is a list of games we'll be watching this weekend that could impact Sporting KC's playoff seeding, as well as a few national TV games to keep an eye on.
1. Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution | Thursday, Oct. 16, 7pm CT | ESPN2
Tonight's match at BBVA Compass Stadium is big for a number of reasons. Sporting KC and New England are tied on points with 49 apiece. A Revolution, coupled with a Sporting KC win or draw, would put the reigning MLS Cup champs in the driver's seat for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. New England currently holds the tie-breaker edge on Sporting KC with one more victory so a win tonight in Houston would give Jay Heaps' squad the edge heading into next weekend's regular season finale vs. Toronto FC.
For Houston, it will be an emotional night. The team was officially eliminated from playoff contention last week, but news broke this week that head coach Dominic Kinnear - the only head coach in team history - will be stepping down at the end of the season. Kinnear will go back to his former club and lead the San Jose Earthquakes in their inaugural season in their new stadium. It should be a a raucous atmosphere in Kinnear's final home game and expect the players to come out fighting.
2. Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake | Friday, Oct. 17, 9pm CT | NBCSN
This game is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a Timbers loss puts the reigning regular season Western Conference champions on the brink of playoff elimination. A single point from the game and they are still alive.
For Real Salt Lake, Jeff Cassar's team is fighting to stay out of the Knockout Round game, but there is also a bigger picture in play. Bear with me ...
Currently, the Seattle Sounders have locked up a berth in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League group stage by virtue of winning the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. That means that three CCL spots are up for grabs. Those will go to the Supporters' Shield winner, the conference winner that does not win the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup champion. If one team takes two of those spots (i.e. Seattle wins Open Cup an Supporters' Shield) then the second berth goes to the next highest team in the Supporters' Shield standings.
So hypothetically speaking Seattle wins the Open Cup, LA Galaxy win the Supporters' Shield, D.C. United win the Eastern Conference and one of those three teams wins MLS Cup, then the final CCL berth will go to the next highest team in the Supporters' Shield standings.
That is added incentive for teams to finish with as many regular season points as possible. Real Salt Lake is currently in line for that next spot, but any of six teams could move into that spot including Sporting KC. It's confusing yes, but the picture should get more clear after this weekend's matches.
3. Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact | Saturday, Oct. 18, 1pm CT | Univision Deportes Network
Plain and simple, Toronto FC needs to win their final two games and Columbus needs to lose their final two games for the Reds to clinch a playoff berth.
4. Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas | Saturday, Oct. 18, 2pm CT | NBCSN
FC Dallas has been one of the hottest teams in MLS, while the Colorado Rapids have been one of the worst.
So why should Sporting KC fans pay attention to this one? Go back a few paragraphs. Real Salt Lake has 52 points; FC Dallas has 51 points; Sporting KC has 49 points. There are a few teams jockeying to finish as high in the standings as possible and FC Dallas is one of those teams.
If Sporting KC earns three points on Friday, all of SKC Nation will be glued to Saturday's match at PPL Park. If both Sporting KC and the Philadelphia Union win, Peter Vermes' squad will be playing postseason soccer.
Columbus is currently in the final playoff spot, while Philadelphia sits four points behind them. A Crew win would all but eliminate the Union from booking a playoff spot.
5. D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire | Saturday, Oct. 18 6pm CT | MLS Live
A win or draw and D.C. United will clinch their first regular season conference title since 2007. A point would also secure them a spot in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League.
6. New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew | Sunday, Oct. 19 2pm CT | UniMas
Sporting KC holds a two-point edge on the Red Bulls and a three-point edge on the Crew. Those numbers could change depending on Sporting KC's result against the Union on Saturday. Neither Columbus nor New York can finish first in the Eastern Conference, but depending on other results, both teams could finish as high as second.
7. LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders | Sunday, Oct. 19 7:15pm CT | ESPN2
The penultimate week of the regular season concludes with a big one Sunday night when the LA Galaxy host the Seattle Sounders on ESPN2. The two teams are tied atop the Western Conference with 60 points. The Sounders hold the tiebreaker edge (more wins) so if they win Sunday night, they'll clinch the Supporters' Shield. Any other result and the Shield can't be won until the two teams play the following weekend in Seattle.
So what should Sporting KC fans root for on Sunday? At this point, no result can impact Sporting KC. Both teams have already secured Champions League spots. So Sporting KC fans can sit back, enjoy the game and enjoy Landon Donovan's last regular season home game.
Sporting KC captain Matt Besler joined The Border Patrol on Sports Radio 810 WHB this morning from Boca Raton, Florida, where the United States Men's National Team will take on Honduras in an international friendly tonight at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas and ESPN Deportes Radio. The Overland Park, Kansas native -- who was added to the U.S. roster on Saturday along with teammate Graham Zusi -- discussed the match-up with a CONCACAF rival while also giving his thoughts on the Royals postseason run and Sporting KC securing a playoff berth of their own with Friday's 2-0 win over Chicago.
Listen to the 10-minute interview below and visit USsoccer.com for a full match preview...
Sporting Kansas City homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown is among the world's top 40 players at his age, acording to The Guardian's "Next Generation 2014" list released earlier today. The 17-year-old is the only American included in the compilation and one of two from CONCACAF along with Mexico's Erick Aguirre.
A Lee's Summit, Missouri native, Palmer-Brown appeared in six matches for Sporting Kansas City across all competition in 2014. He made his professional debut in May, becoming the youngest player in MLS history to start a regular season match as a defender and the youngest player to appear in a Major League Soccer match this season, for the first of three MLS games played. Palmer-Brown also started each of the team's two matches in the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and he most recently started in the team's 3-0 victory over Real Esteli FC in the 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League.
Palmer-Brown is a member of the United States Under-20 Men's National Team, participating in an international training camp in Buenos Aires, Argentina last month. He attended the prestigious U.S. Soccer Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida in 2013 before being named one of five finalists for U.S. Soccer's Young Male Athlete of the Year.
Palmer-Brown is a product of the Sporting Kansas City Academy. He became the club's third homegrown player upon signing a professional contract in August 2013.