The most important series in Sporting Kansas City’s international history is just around the corner. On Thursday, Manager Peter Vermes’ side will visit Mexican giants CF Monterrey in the first leg of the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Semifinals. The second leg is slated for 8 p.m. CT on April 11 at Children’s Mercy Park, with tickets now on sale at SeatGeek.com.
In the buildup to this titanic clash, SportingKC.com is relaunching the Champions League Countdown to give readers a comprehensive look at Sporting’s semifinal opponent. This 10-part series, running from March 25 to April 3, will shed light on all things Monterrey—ranging from players to watch and recent performances to past history in the Champions League and more.



The question was posed to Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes on Monday during an interview with MLS Extra Time Radio.


Is CF Monterrey the best club he has coached against during his decade-long stint in Kansas City?


"Probably," Vermes responded before elaborating on his answer.


"When you look at their starting lineup, they have 10 (Designated Players) if you were to compare them to how (MLS) puts together a roster," Vermes explained, alluding to the value of Monterrey's squad.


According to Transfermarkt.com, that approximate value is $92.9 million. By comparison, the combined salaries of most MLS clubs is south of $20 million.



"They have 10 DPs in their starting XI, they have three DPs on the bench, and they have another five (Targeted Allocation Money) guys on their roster, as well," Vermes said. "Then they probably have another three or four players who (make) between $200,000 and $400,000."


In the past 10 months, Monterrey bought Rodolfo Pizarro from CD Guadalajara for $16 million in June 2018 and Maximiliano Meza from Club Atletico Independiente (Argentina) for $15 million in December 2018. By comparison, Sporting’s two most recent major transfer expenses amounted to less than $2 million to acquire Johnny Russell and Yohan Croizet prior to the start of the 2018 season.


"In building (Monterrey's) roster, that's not even close to how we're able to build a roster in MLS. But where we have tried to bridge the gap is consistency within our team—meaning not a lot of changes from last year, which really helped us get to our model of play quicker."


But Vermes knows that beating Rayados will require more than just overcoming the star-studded quality on Monterrey's roster. One of the biggest keys for Sporting is winning the battle between the ears.


"Where I think the Mexican teams have been so much better than (MLS teams) has not necessarily been the play on the field. They are really, really strong mentally. That is something that we have tried to get better at, but they know how to manage a game. They know how to manage someone else's territory and get a result. That is something that we have been trying to improve upon, and I think we're getting there. We'll find out (Thursday) if we're there or not."


Sporting has earned praise as the lone MLS club to reach the Champions League Semifinals. This won't mean much to Vermes, however, if his side is unable to knock off Rayados.


"We are very well grounded to understand that, for us to do anything, we have to get through Monterrey. Right now they're the best team left in this competition that everyone is talking about. A lot of people don't see us competing, but we're going to do everything we can.


"We're going there (on Thursday) and we know it's going to be difficult. We know what they're strong at, and it's a very good team. We'll have to be on our best game and we'll have to be in good form to try and get any type of result against that team."


Thursday's first leg will kick off at 9 p.m. CT at Monterrey's world-class Estadio BBVA Bancomer. The game will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app, while Univision Deportes will provide a Spanish-language telecast. Listeners can also catch the action locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.