"Five Things" is a season-long series presented by the Children's Mercy Sports Medicine Center that highlights the top storylines and players to watch ahead of each match. To visit the series archive, click here.

A mouthwatering Western Conference battle beckons Wednesday as second-place Sporting Kansas City (5-3-2, 17 points) hosts the third-place Colorado Rapids (5-2-1, 16 points) at Children's Mercy Park. 

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. CT showdown are available at SeatGeek.com as both clubs continue their push for first place in the West. Fans can also catch the action on Bally Sports Kansas City Plus, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, BallySports.com and the new Bally Sports app as well as Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM.

With the stakes elevated in this compelling midweek matchup, we examine five prevailing storylines in the space below.

1. Two Toward the Top

Although Seattle Sounders FC have raced clear at the top of the table, the two clubs immediately following in the Western Conference pecking order are Sporting and Colorado. Led by 12th-year manager Peter Vermes, Sporting have used a potent attack en route to their strong start with the likes of Alan Pulido (five goals, one assist), Daniel Salloi (four goals, two assists) and Gianluca Busio (two goals) leading the way.

The Rapids, meanwhile, have quietly won five of their last six matches after opening the season with a draw and a loss. Needless to say, the winner of Wednesday’s encounter would be making a clear statement of intent as the regular season rolls into the summer.

2. A New Legend

Sporting will pay tributed to an all-time club great on Wednesday night when former captain and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is inducted into the Sporting Legends hall of honor during a pregame ceremony on the field.

In four standout seasons at Sporting, Nielsen established himself as one of the club’s most influential players of all time and led the team to the 2012 U.S. Open Cup and 2013 MLS Cup titles. Nicknamed the White Puma and beloved by fans, the Denmark native made 142 competitive appearances for Kansas City as a two-time MLS All-Star who earned 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year accolades.

As part of his experience on Wednesday, Nielsen will autograph “One Club” commemorative books for Season Ticket Members and fans from 6-6:50 p.m. CT on the Mazuma Plaza.

3. New Merchandise

Supporters in attendance will have the opportunity to shop the new Negro Leagues Baseball Museum capsule collection, which launched Friday in collaboration between Sporting and the NLBM. The new merchandise will be available at all SportingStyle locations while supplies last. Additionally, all ticket holders who offer proof of vaccination will be eligible for a 30% SportingStyle discount (some exclusions apply) on Wednesday night.

4. Hot at Home

Sporting are unbeaten in five home matches this year, collecting three wins and two draws. Vermes’ men have notably hammered in 10 goals at Children’s Mercy Park, including three apiece in recent victories over Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Houston Dynamo FC. The team has also tied a Kansas City record by scoring in 20 consecutive regular season home matches dating back to Aug. 10, 2019.

Defensively, goalkeeper Tim Melia—who is in line to make his 200th start and appearance for the club across all competitions—has a 5-0-1 record in each of his last six regular season appearances at the stadium. Sporting haven’t lost a regular season home game since Sept. 23, 2020.

5. Colorado Cruising

The Rapids suffered a 4-0 loss to Sporting in their most recent visit to Children’s Mercy Park on Oct. 24, 2020, but early returns in 2021 suggest Wednesday’s contest will be far more competitive.

Under the guidance of head coach and MLS legend Robin Fraser, the Rapids have taken 15 of a possible 18 points since the start of May. Former Sporting striker Diego Rubio leads the team with three goals, while midfielder Jack Price is tied for third in MLS with four assists. Wide midfielders Michael Barrios (two goals, three assists) and Cole Bassett (two goals, two assists) have also made palpable impacts in attack, while goalkeeper William Yarbrough and a stout back line of Auston Trusty, Danny Wilson, Keegan Rosenberry and Sam Vines have contributed to four clean sheets in eight games.