With seven weeks to go in the 2014 regular season, the Major League Soccer standings are as tight as can be. The top three teams in the Western Conference - Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake - are separated by only five points, while teams 4-9 in the Eastern Conference are separated by only seven points.
Sporting Kansas City currently sits nine points back of the Seattle Sounders in the Supporters' Shield race and five points back of D.C. United in the Eastern Conference standings. Sporting KC will conclude their three-game road trip this weekend when they travel to Southern California to take on Chivas USA. That match will kick off Friday night at 9:30pm CT and be seen on KMCI 38 the Spot and across the Midwest on SKCTV.
But thankfully for MLS fans, you don't need to wait until Friday to get your MLS fix. Here are four nationally-televised games that we'll be keeping an eye on this week as they could all have an impact on Sporting KC in the standings over the final stretch of the season.
1. New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United | Wednesday, Sept. 10, 7pm CT | ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
D.C. United is five points clear of Sporting KC in the Eastern Conference standings, but has a game in hand. After tonight, they'll be level on games played. Each team has three CONCACAF Champions League games left and will play their final regular season match against each other on October 3 at RFK Stadium. The Red Bulls are currently below the red line, two points behind the Philadelphia Union for the fifth spot in the conference standings.
2. Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake | Friday, Sept. 12, 9:30pm CT | NBCSN
As you're watching Sporting KC take on Chivas USA on your TV, fire up NBC Sports Live Extra on the computer / tablet and keep an eye on this Western Conference showdown. Seattle has a nine-point lead on Sporting KC in the Shield standings, while Real Salt Lake sits four points ahead of Kansas City.
3. Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls | Saturday, Sept. 13, 2pm CT | NBCSN
Philadelphia has one more match before their U.S. Open Cup final date with Seattle and it comes in a nationally-televised match against a conference rival. The Union sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and are riding a three-game winning streak. New York is coming off a 2-1 win over Sporting KC, but has two games this week starting with tonight's match against D.C. United.
4. San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy | Sunday, Sept. 14, 2pm CT | UniMas
The Galaxy are one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer with five wins in their last five matches. They have scored 19 goals during that stretch including six in last weekend's 6-0 win over the Colorado Rapids. The Earthquakes are fighting for their playoff lives. They are nine points back of the Portland Timbers for the fifth spot in the Western Conference standings and have played the fewest games in MLS (25). The California Clasico is always must-see TV and there's no reason to think Sunday's showdown on UniMas will be any different.
If you've been to a Sporting KC game over the past three years, you are probably familiar with The Cauldron. The supporters' group behind the north goal is one of the more boisterous groups in Major League Soccer, singing, chanting and beating drums from more than an hour before kickoff until well after the final whistle.
They have also earned a reputation as one of the best traveling supporters' groups in MLS with no fewer than 50 members on each road trip as many as 700 attending matches in Colorado and Dallas.
Recently, Major League Soccer had a camera crew at Sporting Park to tell The Cauldron's story. Watch the latest "For Love of the Crest" feature above and click here for the complete series.
Click here to learn more about Sporting KC supporters' groups.
Photo via @ussoccer_ynt on Twitter
Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown started for the United States Under-20 Men's National Team on Tuesday in a 1-1 draw against the Argentina Under-20 Men's National Team in Ezeiza, Argentina. The home side's lone goal came from 19-year-old River Plate forward Giovanni Simeone, the son of Atletico Madrid manager and three-time World Cup veteran Diego Simeone, in the 48th minute before Zach Pfeffer (Philadelphia Union) pulled the U.S. level with a game-tying goal in the 61st minute.
Palmer-Brown, the youngest player on the U.S. roster at age 17, started all three games for head coach Tab Ramos during the team's stay in Buenos Aires. Prior to today's friendly, the U-20's earned a 2-0 victory over Racing Club Reserves and a 3-2 win against Defensa y Justicia Reserves.
The international trip to South America was Palmer-Brown's second full training camp with the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team. In April, he appeared in four victories for the U-20's en route to reaching the Dallas Cup final.
— WalterGastonCoyette (@gatocoyette) September 9, 2014
— Empire State Bldg (@EmpireStateBldg) September 7, 2014
Erik Palmer-Brown started his second straight match for the United States Under-20 Men's National Team on Saturday, playing the full 70 minutes in a 3-2 win over Defensa y Justicia Reserves in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Sporting KC defender anchored a U.S. backline that allowed only two shots on goal, both of which resulted in goals for the home side in the opening 15 minutes.
The United States, led by head coach Tab Ramos, came from behind with a brace from Bradford Jamieson (LA Galaxy) and a goal from Paul Arriola (Tijuana). It marked the second straight victory for the youth national team during their international training camp after earning a 2-0 win over Racing Club Reserves last Thursday. Palmer-Brown started and played 62 minutes in that win.
The U.S. will next play the Argentina Under-20 Men's National Team on Tuesday, Sept. 9 before players return to their respective clubs on Wednesday, Sept. 10. Follow @ussoccer_ynt for updates.
League play begins tonight at Swope Soccer Village as area youth soccer players will step foot on the new fields for the first time since the start of a $15.5 million expansion at the state-of-the-art facility. Over 16,000 boys and girls of all ages will compete at Swope Soccer Village during the Fall 2014 season, representing more than 1,100 teams from nearly 200 clubs.
Mayor Sly James stopped by the nine-field complex (three natural grass, six synthetic turf) at 63rd and Lewis Rd in Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday, sending out a series of tweet with his first impressions.
— Mayor Sly James (@MayorSlyJames) September 4, 2014
— Mayor Sly James (@MayorSlyJames) September 4, 2014
An official dedication ceremony will be held next Friday, Sept. 12 at 4:30 p.m. CT on the south plaza at Swope Soccer Village. Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo, 5th District Councilman Michael Brooks, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, KC Parks Commissioners and Sporting KC representatives will all be in attendance for the festivities.
In addition to league competition, Swope Soccer Village's fall schedule is highlighted by several upcoming marquee events:
- Big 12 Soccer Championship: The postseason tournament returns to KC for a second straight year as the top eight women's soccer teams in the Big 12 conference play in a single-elimination tournament from Nov. 5-9 for an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
- Youth Soccer Clinic: Hosted by the Kansas City Sports Commission and featuring NWSL champions FC Kansas City, the clinic is free for kids 6-12 and will be held from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8. Registration is required.
- Presidents Cup & State Cup: The best under-15 thru under-18 girls soccer teams from Missouri and Kansas will play Nov. 8-9 in pursuit of berths to regional competition and with college coaches in attendance for recruiting opportunities.
- NCAA Division III Soccer Championship: The men's and women's champions of NCAA Division III will be crowned on Dec. 5-6 in the first of four years of NCAA soccer championships coming to Swope Soccer Village.
Sporting Kansas City homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown started and played 62 minutes for the United States Under-20 Men's National Team on Thursday in a 2-0 victory over Racing Club Reserves in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Palmer-Brown and the United States defense limited Racing to only one shot on goal in the shutout, while the U.S. received goals from Zach Pfeffer (Philadelphia Union) and Romain Gall (Columbus Crew).
At age 17, Palmer-Brown is the youngest of 19 players selected by head coach Tab Ramos for the international trip after an impressive showing with the U20's at the 2014 Dallas Cup in April.
“He’s really a U18 player but I talked with Peter Vermes a few months ago and he said Erik had been showing well," Ramos told American Soccer Now. "I decided it didn’t make sense to leave him at the 18's and he was ready to move up to this level. He’s up for the challenge.”
The United States Under-20's will next face the Defensa y Justicia Reserves on Saturday before the final friendly on Tuesday, Sept. 9 against the Argentina Under-20 Men's National Team.
Carlos Bocanegra (right) celebrates scoring at Sporting Park | Photo by Jamie Squire (Getty Images)
No defender in U.S. Men's National Team history scored as many goals as Carlos Bocanegra and he set the record with the final goal of his international career on Oct. 16, 2012 at Sporting Park in a 3-1 victory over Guatemala. The two-time FIFA World Cup veteran announced on Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 2014 MLS season, concluding a 15-year professional career in which he captained the United States in 64 of his 110 appearances.
Bocanegra -- who also captained the United States to a 1-0 win over Guadeloupe at Sporting Park during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup -- spent six seasons in Major League Soccer, beginning his career in Chicago. He earned Rookie of the Year honors and helped the Fire reach the 2000 MLS Cup, where they fell 1-0 to Kansas City at RFK Stadium.
His MLS career saw him make only two appearances in Kansas City with cameos coming in 2002 and 2003 - both seasons in which he was named MLS Defender of the Year. He scored Chicago's lone goal in his KC debut on Aug. 31, 2002 in a 2-1 loss but returned the following year and led Chicago to a 3-2 victory at Arrowhead Stadium on April 26, 2003.
Now 35, Bocanegra captains Chivas USA but has been sidelined since July with concussion symptoms. Sporting KC will take on Chivas USA next Friday, Sept. 12 at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.