Major League Soccer prides itself on parity. Commissioner Don Garber said as much last week during his trip to England.
"We are very committed as Yanks to this idea that in the beginning of every season, every fan should have the thought that their team could win a championship. The fact that you're not just shooting to not get relegated, you're not shooting to maybe make Europa (League), maybe to make the Champions League and maybe, maybe, maybe if we're lucky we'll win the championship. That's just not something we subscribe to. We want somebody in Kansas City, even though they're smaller than New York, to think that they could hoist the trophy. In our 20 years, nine different teams have been champions."
The result? A season-long roller coaster ride of ups and downs, unbeaten streaks and winless droughts. And Sporting KC's 2015 campaign -- one in which the team has been ranked as high as No. 1 and as low as No. 17 in the power rankings -- can serve as a microcosm of that volatility.
Sporting KC earned three wins in the first 10 MLS matches, won six of the next eight in league play and now has three wins in the past 10 MLS matches.
A cause for concern? Sure. An indictment of the club's chances? Hardly.
In fact, it's par for the course. Every single team in Major League Soccer this year has been through a stretch of 10 regular season games in which they earned three or fewer victories.
Across the Atlantic, Manchester City FC - for example - hasn't experienced such a stretch in league play at any point in the past five seasons.
But back to the matter at hand. Only 16 days remain until the U.S. Open Cup Final on Sept. 30 at PPL Park and neither side is satisfied with their current form.
Sporting KC has one point in the last five games. Philadelphia has one point in their last four league home matches. Both teams have just three wins in their past 10 regular season games and share identical 3-5-2 records over that span.
Sporting Kansas City's three wins all came against Canadian clubs: 2-1 over Montreal on July 18, 3-1 at Toronto FC on Aug. 8 and 4-3 versus Vancouver on Aug. 15.
Philadelphia has won back-to-back road matches -- 1-0 at Montreal on Aug. 22 and 2-1 at San Jose on Sept. 5 -- to go along with a 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on July 11.
The dropped points for each side have come amidst key injuries, in addition to absences due to international duty, as Sporting KC's Roger Espinoza and Philadelphia's Maurice Edu last appeared in an MLS match on Aug. 1. Though Espinoza's foot fracture will sideline him for at least another month, Edu hopes to return soon in preparation for the U.S. Open Cup Final.
“We need to wake up very quickly,” Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said after Sunday's 3-1 loss in Orlando.
"In this league, the second you think you’re good or you’re at least improving, it comes back to bite you so it’s been a challenge. The consistency has not been there," Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin said following his side's 2-1 loss to Columbus on Saturday.
Both clubs will have the chance to turn around their recent results with home matches against teams from Texas in Week 29 and will do so in front of national television audiences. Sporting Kansas City hosts FC Dallas at 6 p.m. CT on Friday at Sporting Park (tickets) on UniMas, while Philadelphia welcomes the Houston Dynamo to PPL Park at 6 p.m. CT on Sunday on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes.