As Sporting Kansas City prepares for its 26th season as a charter member of Major League Soccer, SportingKC.com is rolling out a 26-day countdown to the start of the 2021 campaign. A mouthwatering opening weekend of MLS action will see Sporting Kansas City visit the New York Red Bulls at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday, giving supporters their first look at Manager Peter Vermes’ side since last December.
The 2021 Preseason Countdown, presented by Children’s Mercy, serves as the comprehensive, go-to preview of everything that awaits Sporting Kansas City in the weeks and months to come. From key storylines and bold predictions to statistical breakdowns and players to watch, the 2021 Preseason Countdown highlights the many reasons to be excited for what’s ahead. To visit the series homepage as it expands, head to SportingKC.com/2021countdown.
Year after year, the dawn of a new Major League Soccer season brings with it a number of notable changes. In the penultimate edition of our countdown to the 2021 campaign, some 48 hours before Sporting visits the Red Bulls, we provide a rapid-fire rundown of the major changes in MLS from last year to this year.
Austin FC and Q2 Stadium
The 27th club in MLS will hit the ground running in 2021 as head coach and former Sporting Legend Josh Wolff takes the helm at Austin FC. The new team has generated palpable buzz this offseason, acquiring multiple Designated Players and adding longtime Sporting star Matt Besler in defense. Wolff is joined on the coaching staff by another Kansas City great in Davy Arnaud. Austin is slated to face Sporting three times this year, visiting Children's Mercy Park on May 9 and July 17 before playing host on Nov. 3.
Austin will play their first seven MLS matches away from home before inaugurating Q2 Stadium on June 19 against the San Jose Earthquakes.
New Crew Stadium
Defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew SC will transition from their Historic Crew Stadium to New Crew Stadium this summer, hosting the New England Revolution in the venue's inaugural match on July 3.
West End Stadium
The state of Ohio will see two world-class stadiums enter the MLS ring, as FC Cincinnati is slated to debut West End Stadium on May 16 against Inter Miami CF.
The U22 Initiative
MLS has introduced a new initiative for players under the age of 22 in an effort to continue to foster the growth of young players and decrease roadblocks for clubs interested in signing them. The U22 Initiative allows MLS clubs to sign up to three young players, age 22 and younger, to lucrative contracts at a reduced budget charge, decreasing the risk associated with acquiring or retaining players who are still approaching their prime. Players can occupy the U22 initiative slot through the season they turn 25 years old
MLS will participate in FIFA’s concussion substitute pilot program from the 2021 season. The program allows for up to two substitutions per team during a match to replace players suffering from a concussion or a suspected concussion, regardless of the number of substitutions already used. Full details are available here.
The following head coaches are entering their first seasons at the helm of their respective clubs:
- Gabriel Heinze - Atlanta United FC
- Greg Vanney - LA Galaxy
- Chris Armas - Toronto FC
- Phil Neville - Inter Miami CF
- Hernan Losada - D.C. United
- Wilfried Nancy - CF Montreal
CF Montreal and Houston Dynamo FC
CF Montreal (formerly the Montreal Impact) and Houston Dynamo FC (formerly sans "FC") underwent rebrands this offseason. Montreal's makeover was a bit more comprehensive than that of their Texas counterparts.