Match Preview

Playoff Preview: Sporting KC hosts San Jose on Wednesday in Western Conference Wild Card clash


Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs
Western Conference Wild Card
Wednesday, October 25 | 8:30 p.m. CT (8:39 kickoff)
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kan.

Broadcast Schedule:
Apple TV | MLS Season Pass
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
Satellite Radio | SiriusXM FC

Sporting Kansas City (12-14-8, No. 8 seed) will open the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Earthquakes (10-10-14, No. 9 seed) at 8:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday at Children's Mercy Park in the single-elimination Western Conference Wild Card match.

Wednesday's winner, which will be determined by a penalty shootout if the match is tied at the end of 90 minutes, will advance to play St. Louis CITY SC (17-12-5, No. 1 seed) in a Round One Best-of-3 Series set to begin this Sunday.

Tickets for SKCvSJ are available online at SeatGeek, including the Coca-Cola Friends & Family 4-Pack which features four Price Chopper South Stand tickets, four 20-ounce Coca-Cola products and four hot dogs for $100, and all fans in attendance will receive Sporting KC rally towels. In addition, ticket holders can pre-order the Paint the Wall tee - a collaboration between Sporting KC and Charlie Hustle - and the Paint the Wall pennant from SportingStyle for matchday pick-up on Wednesday.

Two teams level on 44 points and two teams that earned 3-0 home wins in the regular season series, Sporting and San Jose both clinched postseason berths on the final day of the regular season on Saturday but enter Wednesday's encounter in contrasting runs of form. Sporting picked up a sixth win in nine matches since Leagues Cup with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota, while San Jose settled for a fourth straight 1-1 draw and has won only once in the same span -- which coincidentally started with Sporting's 3-0 victory over the Earthquakes on August 26.

Daniel Salloi, Johnny Russell and Erik Thommy all scored against San Jose that night, and Tim Melia saved a penalty to keep the clean sheet, as Sporting improved to 16-1-3 at home versus the Earthquakes in the club's last 20 matches across all competitions dating back to 2004. That run includes the last postseason meeting between the two sides on Nov. 22, 2020 as Melia saved all three San Jose attempts in a penalty shootout following a thrilling 3-3 draw.

The elimination was San Jose's last playoff appearance and, after finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference in 2022, first-year head coach Luchi Gonzalez has led the Earthquakes back to the postseason this year in pursuit of the team's first playoff win since 2012 and first advancement since 2010. However, San Jose is winless in the club's last 23 MLS matches outside of the Pacific Time Zone (0-14-9) since the start of 2022 and Gonzalez is winless in two previous postseasons with FC Dallas (0-2-1).

Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes -- who has reached the postseason in 20 out of 24 years in his MLS career as a player, manager and technical director -- leads all active MLS head coaches with 11 playoff qualifications as a manager and his 18 combined postseasons as a player and manager are most in MLS history. 

Wednesday will mark the fourth playoff showdown between Sporting and San Jose all-time. The previous three postseason match-ups were each defined by dramatic late goals as Landon Donovan scored in the 117th minute of the 2003 Conference Final en route to San Jose's second MLS Cup title before Jack Jewsbury struck in the 92nd minute of the 2004 Conference Semifinal to overcome a 2-0 aggregate deficit. Most recently in 2020, Gianluca Busio and Chris Wondolowski traded goals in second-half stoppage time to set up Melia's heroics in the penalty shootout.

Also a two-time MLS Cup champion, Sporting have become the first club in MLS history to make the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs after opening the regular season winless through 10 matches. After going 0-7-3 with three goals scored from February through April, Sporting would go on to lead the Western Conference in points (41), wins (12) and goals per game (1.88) since the start of May. Sporting went 9-1-1 at home against the Western Conference during that span and sealed a return to the playoffs, for the 11th time in the past 13 years, with a 3-1 win on Decision Day to remain unbeaten in 13 straight October home matches (11-0-2) since 2015.

Russell bagged a brace in Saturday's triumph and was named MLS Player of the Matchday for his two-goal performance. The Scottish skipper has goals in each of his last three appearances and his 11 career regular season goals in October are most for the month in Sporting history.

In addition to the reliable Russell, Sporting's attack features three playmakers who are tied for the team lead with 18 goal contributions across all competitions in 2023. World Cup veteran Alan Pulido (15 goals, three assists), Sporting KC Academy product Daniel Salloi (eight goals, 10 assists) and Designated Player Erik Thommy (five goals, 13 assists) have combined to become the only trio of teammates in the Western Conference this year -- and the first SKC trio since 1996 -- with at least 16 goal contributions in the regular season.

The Earthquakes' roster is headlined by MLS All-Star Cristian Espinoza, who recorded 13 goals and 13 assists in the regular season. The 28-year-old Argentine has contributed a goal or assist in each of San Jose's last four matches and led MLS with 101 chances created during the regular season campaign. Alongside Espinoza in the San Jose attack is 26-year-old striker Jeremy Ebobisse who has started in San Jose's last 69 MLS matches with 17 goals in 2022 and 10 goals in 2023.

Wednesday's match will be officiated by two-time MLS Referee of the Year Allen Chapman and will stream live on Apple TV in English and Spanish for MLS Season Pass subscribers.  Pub partners in the Sporting Pub Network will also show all of the action in addition to a watch party inside KC Live! in the Kansas City Power & Light District. Radio coverage will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340 AM with streams in the Sporting KC app as well as a simulcast on SiriusXM FC.