Club and Country: Seven Sporting KC players to take international stage
Following a pivotal home match Saturday night against the Montreal Impact, Sporting Kansas City has a three-week break in the MLS schedule.
During this time, international competitions overtake the soccer calendar and several MLS players exchange club for country. With international friendlies, 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying and the 2013 U-20 World Cup on tap, Sporting KC fans’ appetite for soccer will be more than appeased during the League break.
All 19 MLS clubs have at least one player going on international duty in June, but no one has more than Sporting Kansas City. Seven players — Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Mechack Jerome, Peterson Joseph, Kei Kamara, Soony Saad and Mikey Lopez — will represent four different nations, which ties FC Dallas for the most countries represented during this international break.
|Club||Natl. Team Players||Countries Represented||Breakdown|
|Chicago Fire||4||3||1 Costa Rica, 1 Estonia, 1 USA|
|Chivas USA||3||3||1 El Salvador, 1 Mexico U-20, 1 USA U-18|
|Colorado Rapids||2||1||2 USA U-20s|
|Columbus Crew||2||2||1 Costa Rica, 1 USA U-20|
|DC United||2||2||1 Panama, 1 USA|
|FC Dallas||4||4**||1 Mexico U-20, 1 Panama, 1 Peru, 1 USA U-20|
|Houston Dynamo||4||2||1 Honduras, 3 USA|
|Los Angeles Galaxy||3||2||1 Ireland, 1 USA, 1 USA U-20|
|Montreal Impact||1||1||1 Gambia|
|New England Revolution||1||1||1 Honduras|
|New York Red Bulls||2||2||1 Australia, 1 USA U-18|
|Philadelphia Union||1||1||1 Trinidad & Tobago|
|Portland Timbers||4||3||1 Gambia, 1 Costa Rica, 2 Jamaica)|
|Real Salt Lake||1||1||1 USA|
|San Jose Earthquakes||2||1||1 Honduras|
|Seattle Sounders||3||2||1 Honduras, 2 USA|
|Sporting Kansas City||7**||4**||2 Haiti, 1 Lebanon, 1 Sierra Leone, 2 USA, 1 USA U-20|
|Toronto FC||5||2||4 Canada, 1 Ireland|
|Vancouver Whitecaps||2||2||1 Canada, 1 Jamaica|
The national spotlight will shine on Sporting KC defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi, who joined the U.S. Men's National Team ahead of two friendlies and three FIFA World Cup qualifiers. After positive performances in late March, both players are in contention to make Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting XI.
The U.S. has two daunting friendlies against European opposition before CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying resumes. The Yanks meet young, upstart Belgium tonight in Cleveland (7 p.m. CT, ESPN) before facing powerhouse Germany on Sunday at RFK Stadium (1:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2).
Besler and Zusi then roll up their sleeves for three all-important World Cup qualifiers: Jamaica on June 7 in Kingston; Panama on June 11 in Seattle; and Honduras on June 18 in Salt Lake City. The U.S. is currently third in the six-team hexagonal, with the top three CONCACAF nations advancing to the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Sporting KC midfielder Mikey Lopez, the club’s first round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, joins the U.S. Under-20’s today for the Toulon Tournament in France and is expected to be selected later this summer for the U-20 World Cup in Turkey. The U.S. was drawn into the tournament’s group of death, which contains Spain, France and Ghana, respectively. Group play runs from June 21-29, with the knockout stages beginning July 3. The competition concludes with the Final on July 13.
Fresh off his first goal of the season for Sporting KC, forward Kei Kamara will head to Africa following Saturday's match for two World Cup qualifiers with Sierra Leone. They host Tunisia on June 8 before visiting Cape Verde on June 16. Sierra Leone is currently second in their four-team group, five points behind Tunisia. The group winner advances to the final round of African qualifying in October.
Traveling even further east, forward Soony Saad is in Asia with Lebanon where he scored in his international debut today during a 1-1 draw with Oman in Qatar. Finally, the Haitian duo of Mechack Jerome and Peterson Joseph depart for Sun Life Stadium in Miami on Sunday as Haiti meets defending World Cup champion Spain on June 8.
So despite the three-week gap in Sporting KC’s League slate, the club will still have seven players in action scattered across three continents. Needless to say, this period may be far more exciting than originally suspected when the MLS schedule was released.