Preview: Sporting KC opens 2013 MLS season on Saturday at Philadelphia Union

Club's 18th season kicks off with rematch of 2012 regular season finale

Sporting KC at Philadelphia Union
Saturday, March 2, 2013 – 3 p.m. CT
PPL Park | Chester, Penn.

English TV: KCWE, MyTV Topeka
English Radio: Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio: La Gran D 1340 AM

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Sporting Kansas City will open the team’s 18th season at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday at the Philadelphia Union with the first match of the year in Major League Soccer. The game will be broadcast live locally on KCWE, with coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT, as well as over the airwaves on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Gran D 1340 AM.

The team will host an official Watch Party in the Boulevard Members Club on Saturday, including special guests Teal Bunbury and Jacob Peterson. Doors open at 2 p.m. CT and parking is available in Lot D. Specials include 12-ounce Boulevard Pilsners for $3 and all in attendance will be entered into a raffle to win the team's newly designed 2013 home jersey, which will be available to purchase along with other new Sporting Style products.

Saturday’s season opener, the earliest match played in MLS history, is the first of three meetings between the Eastern Conference opponents in 2013 as part of a season series in which the teams face off at PPL Park in the first and last games of the regular season.

The teams last met in Sporting Kansas City’s regular season finale in 2012, with C.J. Sapong scoring the match-winner in the 82nd minute of a 2-1 victory at Sporting Park. The win secured Sporting KC’s first-place finish in the Eastern Conference for a second straight season and gave the club the advantage in the all-time series with a 2-1-3 record since Philadelphia entered the League in 2010.

Sporting Kansas City is yet to win an MLS match at PPL Park in three trips and suffered a 4-0 defeat in their only regular season visit last season. However, the club secured a 2-0 victory over the Union in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals at PPL Park last July en route to lifting the tournament trophy.

Sporting Kansas City’s roster returns captain and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Jimmy Nielsen, MLS MVP finalist Graham Zusi, MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler and MLS Best XI selection Aurelien Collin, alongside new attacking additions that include Designated Player Claudio Bieler and U.S. Men's National Team midfielder Benny Feilhaber.

The club was the only team in the world to send two players, Kei Kamara (on loan to Norwich City) and Roger Espinoza (Wigan Athletic) to the English Premier League during the January transfer window and will also be without Bunbury (left knee), Peterson (right shoulder) and Mikey Lopez (international duty) on Saturday.

Sporting KC boasts an MLS-best 11-4-2 record all-time in season openers and has suffered just one loss to start the season in the last 11 years.

The Philadelphia Union begin the 2013 campaign with head coach John Hackworth at the helm for his first full season. His roster features the acquisition of two former MLS Best XI forwards during the offseason with the return of the team’s all-time leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux and the signing of Colorado’s all-time leading scorer Conor Casey to complement 20-year-old striker Jack McInerney, who led the team with eight goals last season.

The Union loaned out captain and MLS All-Star defender Carlos Valdes (Independiente Sante Fe) but acquired local native Jeff Parke from Seattle as a potential replacement.

Sporting Kansas City supporters can follow the match online via @SKCGameday on Twitter and the MLSSoccer.com MatchCenter, or on mobile devices with the MLS MatchDay app. Additionally, fans outside the local viewing area can watch live on Direct Kick (free preview from March 2-9) and MLS LIVE.