As Sporting Kansas City prepares for its 26th season as a charter member of Major League Soccer, SportingKC.com is rolling out a 26-day countdown to the start of the 2021 campaign. A mouthwatering opening weekend of MLS action will see Sporting Kansas City visit the New York Red Bulls at 7 p.m. CT on April 17, giving supporters their first look at Manager Peter Vermes’ side since last December.
The 2021 Preseason Countdown, presented by Children’s Mercy, will serve as the comprehensive, go-to preview of everything that awaits Sporting Kansas City in the weeks and months to come. From key storylines and bold predictions to statistical breakdowns and players to watch, the 2021 Preseason Countdown will highlight the many reasons to be excited for what’s ahead. To visit the series homepage as it expands, visit SportingKC.com/2021countdown.
In order to win championships in Major League Soccer, your stars have to shine.
Strikers must be clinical in front of goal. Midfielders must make game-changing plays on both sides of the pitch. Defenders must suffocate the opposition and goalkeepers must bail their teams out with jaw-dropping saves.
With the annual injection of Targeted Allocation Money, increased financial backing and an ever-strengthening pool of talent, MLS is as competitive now as it ever has been. And like so many other clubs around the league, Sporting Kansas City appears set to ride a select number of thoroughbreds over the course of 2021 in a bid to win silverware.
In the space below, we highlight five stars who are poised to play leading roles for Sporting in the months to come. That is to say, if these five all have standout seasons in 2021, Manager Peter Vermes will like his chances of painting the wall in the northwest corner of Children's Mercy Park.
Goalkeeper Tim Melia
Tim Melia had big shoes to fill when, in 2015, the longtime MLS backup was named Sporting's starter. In the six years since then, the goalkeeper has been the centerpiece of one of Major League Soccer's greatest stories. From League Pool Goalkeeper to MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the late-blooming Melia is among the very best in the business.
A lot has been written and said about Melia's perfect 6-0 record in penalty shootouts as a pro. We've seen that translate in a big way, as Sporting needed shootout victories during their runs to the 2015 and 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title runs. But Melia is more than just a penalty-saving expert. Over the course of six seasons, he has been one of the most consistent and well-rounded keepers in MLS based on goals against average, shutouts and save percentage.
While another strong year from Melia wouldn't do much to inflate an already monstrous legacy, it would work wonders in Sporting's push for trophies.