As the calendar turns to October, the race for the final playoff spots enters its final stages. With five losses in its last six MLS matches, Sporting Kansas City is currently tied for second place in the Eastern Conference with the New England Revolution, six points behind D.C. United. Thankfully for Sporting KC, they'll have a chance to cut the gap on United when the two teams square off Friday night at RFK Stadium.
Friday's match will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen nationally on NBCSN with local radio coverage on La Gran D 1340.
Outside of Sporting KC's match on NBCSN, here are a few nationally-televised games that we'll be keeping an eye on this week.
1. Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union | Thursday, Oct. 2, 7pm CT | ESPN2
The slate of MLS games kicks off Thursday night when the Philadelphia Union host the Chicago Fire tonight on ESPN2. Philadelphia is in a proverbial "must-win" situation, as the club sits three points back of New York for the final playoff spot in the East. Chicago is currently in ninth place with 31 points and with five games left in the regular season needs a win to ensure their playoff hopes remain alive for 2014.
2. New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo | Saturday, Oct. 4, 5pm CT | NBCSN
The Red Bulls and Dynamo met in the 2013 Eastern Conference Semifinals with Houston taking the series 4-3 on aggregate. Saturday night, the Red Bulls have the opportunity to repay the favor and all but seal the Dynamo's 2013 fate when they square off at Red Bull Arena. A Houston win would move them to within two points of the final playoff spot with a game in hand on New York. A Red Bulls win could push them four points clear of the red line pending other results.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas | Saturday, Oct. 4, 6pm CT | Univision Deportes Network
FC Dallas' Oscar Pareja is in the thick of the Coach of the Year race after leading his team to 48 points through 30 games and fourth place in the Western Conference standings. A win on Saturday, and FC Dallas will clinch their first playoff berth since 2011.
The Whitecaps are holding on to a playoff spot by the skin of their teeth with a one-point lead over the Portland Timbers. Their playoff fate likely won't be sealed until the final week of the season, but a win on Saturday will go a long way to Carl Robinson's club securing a postseason berth in his first year in charge.
4. San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers | Saturday, Oct. 4, 10pm CT | NBCSN
The Timbers have been one of MLS' biggest enigmas in 2014. After a stellar 2013 campaign that saw them finish in first place in the Western Conference, Caleb Porter's team has been inconsistent in 2014 and currently sits below the red line.
The road for Portland doesn't get any easier, as they'll travel to San Jose this weekend without captain Will Johnson, who suffered a broken leg last week and MLS MVP candidate Diego Valeri, who is suspended due to card accumulation.
5. Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders | Sunday, Oct. 5, 2pm CT | UniMas
This weekend's fifth and final nationally televised matchup comes Sunday afternoon when the Seattle Sounders travel to Commerce City to take on the Colorado Rapids. The Sounders are one of two teams who have already clinched a playoff berth and have their sights firmly set on the Supporters' Shield.
The Rapids are winless in 10 matches, with their last victory coming July 25 at home to Chivas USA. Seattle has defeated Colorado twice in 2014 and has outscored the Rapids 5-1 in those two matches.
It's a tradition that's been going on since the 1980s and it's one that will continue Wednesday afternoon when President Barack Obama honors the MLS Cup champions Sporting KC in a ceremony at the White House.
Sporting KC is the first Kansas City team to be honored at the White House since President Ronald Reagan (pictured, right) honored the Kansas City Royals in 1986 following their 1985 World Series championship. And although we'll be more than 1,000 miles away from our beloved SKC Nation, that won't stop us from bringing you as close as possible to all of the action.
Be sure to follow Sporting Kansas City on all of our social accounts as we'll be posting updates of our trip throughout the day. There are also a few player social media takeovers that you'll want to keep an eye on. Sporting KC forward C.J. Sapong will be giving you the lowdown on the trip to D.C. on Sporting KC's official Instagram account. Sporting KC captain Matt Besler will be doing the same on Major League Soccer's official Instagram account and striker Dom Dwyer will be giving you a behind-the-scenes look on Major League Soccer's Snapchat account (mls).
Besler and Dwyer will continue their takeovers through Friday, as Sporting KC remains in the nation's capital to take on D.C. United Friday night at RFK Stadium (7pm CT, NBC Sports Network).
Wednesday's visit with President Obama will be followed by a soccer clinic on the south lawn featuring Sporting KC players and 40 children from the DC Scores organization. The children will learn various soccer skills, as members of the championship team emphasize the importance for children to eat well and stay active as part of living a healthy lifestyle.
I don't care about your politics...when you make one of these it simply means you are the Champions!!! pic.twitter.com/3NQnF926kP
— Michael Flaherty (@KitManSKC) September 29, 2014
Last Friday, The Victory Project and TeamSmile partnered to provide 300 local elementary school children with free dental screenings and care at Sporting Park.
The TeamSmile program was created in Kansas City to provide underserved children with preventative care and education on the significance of good dental hygiene. The organization has partnered with nearly 25 professional sports teams around the country to host TeamSmile programs. Sporting KC is the first MLS team to join the initiative. Each full-day program brings together 100 volunteers including dentists, hygienists, dental assistants and more.
“If you start them early with a fun and good experience, it pays off for a lifetime,” said volunteer dentist Dr. Nevin Waters.
Check out this video below to learn more about the program:
Sporting Kansas City had a bye last weekend, but will return to MLS play Friday night when they host the New England Revolution in an important Eastern Conference matchup. Sporting KC is currently in second place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind conference leaders D.C. United and three points ahead of third place New England. Friday's match will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen nationally on NBCSN with local radio coverage on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Gran D 1340. Limited tickets are available and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.
It's also a busy week for MLS teams as four teams have/had CONCACAF Champions League matches - including Sporting KC Tuesday night - and there are 10 MLS regular season games on the docket over the course of four nights.
Here are a few nationally-televised games that we'll be keeping an eye on this week.
1. D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union | Saturday, Sept. 27, 2pm CT | NBCSN
This a big one. Games in hand are a thing of the past, as the top six teams in the Eastern Conference enter the weekend with 29 games played. If Sporting KC wins Friday night and D.C. loses Saturday night, the two teams will be level on points and the first tiebreaker (wins) with four games to play including an Oct. 3 showdown at RFK Stadium. Philadelphia is currently two points back of Columbus for the fifth, and final, Eastern Conference playoff spot. Jim Curtin's team can ill-afford to fall further behind in the standings, especially with Toronto FC only a point behind them and with one less game played.
2. Houston Dynamo vs. Chicago Fire | Sunday, Sept. 28, 2pm CT | UniMas
Both teams are mathematically still in the standings, but their playoff hopes are getting smaller and smaller. Houston Dynamo are seven points back of the final playoff spot in the East, while the Fire are nine points back. The Dynamo's final six games are against conference foes, so if they were going to make one of their patented late-season runs, Sunday is the time to start. Four of Chicago's final six games are on the road, so Frank Yallop's side will have their work cut out of them if they want to secure a coveted playoff spot.
3. LA Galaxy vs. New York Red Bulls | Sunday, Sept. 28, 7:30pm CT | ESPN2
Every LA Galaxy is must-see TV, as Landon Donovan closes out his career as the most accomplished player in MLS history. But Sunday's match has more than sentiment, as it also features two of the most explosive attacks in the League with the Galaxy's Donovan, Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes going up against the New York Red Bulls triumvirate of Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Bradley Wright-Phillips.
The Galaxy are currently tied with the Seattle Sounders atop the Supporters' Shield standings with 54 points through 28 games. New York is unbeaten in four straight league matches are sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of fifth place Columbus Crew.
On Tuesday, defender Matt Besler was named the best soccer player of all-time from the state of Kansas by TopDrawerSoccer.com and it's that type of national notoriety that earned the Sporting Kansas City captain a spot on the "20 in their twenties" list in this month's edition of Ingram's magazine. The business publication annually features the next generation of prominent personalities in the Kansas City area and selected Besler as one of two professional athletes for this year's recognition along with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel.
"In some ways, 27-year-old Matt Besler is the personification of soccer's growth in Kansas City over the past decade. He graduated from Blue Valley West High School in 2005, where his senior season ended with a Class 5A state championship. That was a year before the current owners of Sporting Kansas City bought the pro soccer team from founder Lamar Hunt. Before those two dots could be connected, Besler went on to become an All-American defender at Notre Dame, as well as Academic All-American -- the first player in Notre Dame's history to earn both accolades. The hometown boy came full circle when Sporting, then known as the Wizards, drafted Besler with the eighth pick in 2008. Since then, he's become a household name in Kansas City soccer circles, winning the team's Defender of the Year honors three times and playing on the U.S. team in the FIFA World Cup earlier this year."
In 2012, Sporting Kansas City's Chief Revenue Officer Jake Reid was amongst those honored in the "20 in their twenties" series. Readers can recommend candidates for next year's class (those younger than 30 as of Sept. 1, 2015 are eligible) by submitting a nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cast your vote below for Sporting Kansas City's Man of the Match from Tuesday night's 3-0 win over Real Esteli in the CONCACAF Champions League. Voting is open through Thursday.
The #RoadToKC continued over the weekend as three cities played host to the qualifying round of USSSA’s Juggle, Dribble, Shoot competition. Players from all over the country made the trip to Memphis, Tenn., Belton, Mo., and Richmond, Miss. to show off their skills in the organization’s first competition of its kind.
The United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) and the Sporting Club Network have joined together to host the finals of the new JDS competition in Kansas City. After challenging their skills in a wide range of activities -- including maximum-count juggling, timed dribbling through cones and precision shooting -- the top five finalists from each gender's age group will advance to the national finals to be held at Swope Soccer Village on Saturday, Oct. 25. Finalists will then be invited to attend Sporting KC’s match on Sunday, Oct. 26 where they’ll be recognized on field at Sporting Park for their accomplishments.
Sporting KC and Frito Lay are kicking off a month-long contest, sponsored by Frito Lay. Sporting KC fans will have the opportunity to share their funniest photos including their favorite bag of Frito Lay chips and Sporting KC apparel. Enter to win online by posting your funniest photos on Twitter or Instagram including the hashtag #SKCFritoFan. Contestants must follow the official Sporting KC Twitter account and/or the official Sporting KC Instagram account.
The contest will continue through Monday, Oct. 20th. Four (4) winners will be randomly selected at the end of each of week of the contest. Two winners will receive a pair of tickets to Pitch Black on Oct. 11th and one autographed soccer ball. Two winners will receive a pair of tickets to a Sporting KC home game and one autographed soccer ball.
For official rules, click here.
The U.S. Women's National Team will bring an 87-game home unbeaten streak to Sporting Park on Oct. 15 in the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship. The No. 1 ranked U.S. WNT earned a 4-0 victory over Mexico on Thursday in the team's final tune-up match with goals from Amy Rodriguez, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan, while goalkeeper Hope Solo recorded her 73rd career international shutout.
Series tickets to see all four games during the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship at Sporting Park -- played via doubleheaders on back-to-back nights -- are available through Ticketmaster.com, by phone at 1-800-745-3000 and at all Ticketmaster ticket centers in the Kansas City area. Please note: tickets will not be sold at the Sporting Park ticket office.
2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship matches at Sporting Park
Game 1: Guatemala vs. Haiti on Oct. 15 at 5 p.m. CT
Game 2: USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. CT
Game 3: Jamaica vs. Martinique on Oct. 16 at 5 p.m. CT
Game 4: Costa Rica vs. Mexico on Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. CT
The tournament’s top three teams will directly qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup from June 6-July 5 in Canada, while the fourth-place team enters a playoff with a team from South America for the final World Cup slot.
Cast your vote below for the Man of the Match from Sporting Kansas City's 3-1 win over Saprissa on Thursday night. Voting is open through Sunday night.