Match Preview

Playoff Preview: Sporting KC kicks off Round One Best-of-3 series in St. Louis on Sunday


Sporting Kansas City vs. St. Louis CITY SC
Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs
Round One Best-of-3 series | Game 1
Sunday, Oct. 29 | 9 p.m. CT (9:25 kickoff)
CITYPARK | Saint Louis, Missouri

Broadcast Schedule:
Cable TV | FS1 and FOX Deportes *
Apple TV
* | Free on MLS Season Pass
English Radio | Sports Radio 810 WHB
Spanish Radio | La Grande 1340 AM
Satellite Radio | SiriusXM FC

Just four days after opening the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs by prevailing in penalties in the Western Conference Wild Card game, Sporting Kansas City's road to MLS Cup continues on Sunday with Game 1 in a Round One Best-of-3 series against arch rivals St. Louis CITY SC.

The marquee match-up between No. 8 seed Sporting KC and No. 1 seed St. Louis CITY SC will kick off at 9:25 p.m. CT at CITYPARK in St. Louis and will stream free in English and Spanish on Apple TV's MLS Season Pass. Live coverage will also air on FS1, FOX Deportes, Sports Radio 810 WHB, La Grande 1340 AM and SiriusXM FC.

All matches in Round One of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs will be determined by a penalty shootout if tied at the end of 90 minutes, following the same format as the Western Conference Wild Card game which saw Sporting edge the Earthquakes in penalties after a scoreless draw in regulation on Wednesday. Tim Melia made a key save on Cristian Espinoza in the first round of penalties and improved to a perfect seven for seven in shootouts in his professional career after keeping a clean sheet in which Sporting held an opponent without a shot on goal for the first time in 55 all-time postseason matches.

In the playoffs for an 11th time since 2011 and 20th postseason overall in club history, Sporting now has an opportunity to reach the Western Conference semifinals for a fourth time in six seasons. The club's improbable run in 2023 -- from winless through the first 10 matches with only three goals scored at the end of April to leading the Western Conference in points (41), wins (12) and goals per game (1.88) since the start of May -- has seen Sporting become the most unlikely playoff team in MLS history.

No player or head coach in the league's 28 seasons has been involved in the playoffs more than Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes, who remains the only individual to win MLS Cup as both a player (2000) and a coach (2013) with the same MLS side. Vermes now leads an SKC squad that has faced playoff elimination in each of its past three outings this month. Sporting earned a 3-2 win at Real Salt Lake on Oct. 7 to put the team in position to clinch a postseason berth with a 3-1 win over Minnesota United FC last Saturday on the final day of the regular season. The victories propelled Sporting into the playoffs and earned home-field advantage over No. 9 seed San Jose in Wednesday's single-elimination Wild Card game.

Conversely, St. Louis CITY SC won the first five matches of the club's inaugural season en route to becoming the first team in the Western Conference to secure a postseason berth on Sept. 20 and the first expansion team to earn a No. 1 seed on Oct. 1. However, since the milestone moment, St. Louis fell 3-0 at Vancouver and 2-0 at home against Seattle to end the season with back-to-back losses.

Named a finalist for MLS Coach of the Year in his first full season as a manager, head coach Bradley Carnell guided St. Louis to the second-most wins and second-most points by an expansion team in MLS history despite the lowest payroll in the Western Conference.

The highest scoring team in the West, the St. Louis attack features KC native Nicholas Gioacchini (10 goals, one assist) and the Designated Player duo of Joao Klauss (10 goals, four assists) and Eduard Lowen (six goals, 14 assists). Lowen ranked fourth in MLS in assists and was named a finalist for MLS Newcomer of the Year as one of three St. Louis CITY SC players up for league-wide recognition. Roman Burki, who was second in MLS with 123 saves this season, is a finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and was a 2023 MLS All-Star alongside centerback Tim Parker, who is a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year.

Building on a history of soccer competition between teams from Kansas City and St. Louis that spans more than 100 years, the inaugural year of Major League Soccer's newest rivalry saw the home side win each of the three previous match-ups between the cross-state clubs. With stadiums separated by 250 miles in the heart of America, Sporting Kansas City's 2-1 comeback win over St. Louis on September 2 was sandwiched between a 4-0 road loss on May 20 and a 4-1 away defeat on Sept. 30. 

The professional soccer history between the two cities dates back 55 years to the debut of the North American Soccer League in 1968 when the Kansas City Spurs finished first in a four-team division that also included the St. Louis Stars. The long-standing sports rivalry between Kansas City and St. Louis is filled with memorable moments, however the Kansas City Royals triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series stands as the only postseason match-up featuring MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL or NHL teams from each city until MLS Referee of the Year finalist and 2023 MLS All-Star Game official Ted Unkel blows the whistle for kickoff on Sunday.

Fans are invited to enjoy all the STLvSKC action at any of the club's pub partners in the Sporting Pub Network, including No Other Pub (1370 Grand Blvd.) in the Kansas City Power & Light District. No Other Pub's matchday specials will start at 7 p.m. on Sunday, highlighted by $4 Anheuser-Busch drafts, $5 wells and $10 chicken nachos, and attendees can enter to win Sporting KC swag and ticket giveaways.