After finishing near the top of the Western Conference regular season table, Sporting Kansas City will look to punctuate a thrilling 2021 campaign by winning silverware on Major League Soccer's greatest stage. The Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs will see Sporting take the field with aspirations of hoisting the club's third MLS Cup title.
The first step for third-seeded Sporting is a Round One showdown with the No. 6 seed Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday afternoon at Children's Mercy Park. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. CT with live coverage on Bally Sports Kansas City, Bally Sports Midwest Plus, UniMas and TUDN. Tickets for the highly anticipated encounter are available at SeatGeek.com.
In the buildup to Saturday, SportingKC.com will deliver a comprehensive playoff preview presented by Audi, examining the prevalent storylines surrounding Manager Peter Vermes' side and generating excitement for what lies ahead. In the space below, we revisit the greatest postseason moments in Children's Mercy Park history.
World-class Children's Mercy Park has hosted several high-stakes encounters since opening a decade ago. The 2012 and 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Finals certainly spring to mind, as do three matches during the 2013 MLS Cup title run. A Veterans Day classic against Real Salt Lake in 2018 and a bevy of late-game regular season comebacks also resonate in the minds of supporters.
With the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs running through Children's Mercy Park, there's a good chance that our list of unforgettable games grows. We'll wait and see for now, but until then, let's revisit six of the best playoff matches in the stadium's already illustrious history.
2011 Conference Semifinals: W 2-0 vs. Colorado Rapids (Nov. 2, 2011)
The first playoff match at Children’s Mercy Park did not disappoint, even if it was played amidst cold and rainy conditions. Aurelien Collin and C.J. Sapong found the back of the net to put the finishing touches on a 4-0 aggregate defeat of the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids.
2013 Conference Semifinals: W 3-1 vs. New England Revolution (Nov. 6, 2013)
Manager Peter Vermes’ men fought back from a 2-1 first-leg deficit to win this barnburner of a second leg on home soil. Collin and hometown left back Seth Sinovic scored in regulation to send the series to extra time, where Benny Feilhaber assisted Claudio Bieler’s dramatic winner in the 113th minute.
2013 Conference Finals: W 2-1 vs. Houston Dynamo (Nov. 23, 2013)
Sporting exorcised their Houston Dynamo demons with a cathartic 2-1 win, spreading ecstasy among the Children’s Mercy Park faithful. After falling behind within three minutes, Sporting restored parity through Sapong and then surged ahead near the hour mark when Feilhaber’s impudent scoop pass was finished brilliantly by Dom Dwyer.
2013 MLS Cup: T 1-1 (W 7-6 in PKs) vs. Real Salt Lake (Dec. 7, 2013)
One of the greatest games in Kansas City sports history saw Sporting and Real Salt Lake battle to a 1-1 draw through regulation in one of the coldest MLS matches on record. RSL landed the first haymaker in the 52nd minute, but Collin’s leaping header restored parity less than a half-hour later. In the 10-round penalty shootout that decided the contest, goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen produced a flurry of outstanding saves and Collin buried an inch-perfect penalty kick as Sporting emerged victorious inside a raucous Children’s Mercy Park.
2018 Conference Semifinals: W 4-2 vs. Real Salt Lake (Nov. 11, 2018)
After waiting nearly five years for the playoff to return to Kansas City, the Children’s Mercy Park supporters were rewarded with a six-goal thriller on Veteran’s Day in 2018. Diego Rubio scored early, Ilie Sanchez converted a penalty and Daniel Salloi bagged a brace—including an unforgettable no-look finish into an empty net to seal the win deep into stoppage time—as Sporting won the series 5-3 on aggregate against their Utah rivals.
2021 Conference Quarterfinals: T 3-3 (W 3-0 on PKs) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Nov. 22, 2020)
In a high-scoring slugfest, goalkeeper Tim Melia saved all three penalty kicks in the decisive shootout as Sporting defeated San Jose 3-0 on penalties following a wild 3-3 draw.
Roger Espinoza gave Sporting an early lead before the Earthquakes surged ahead through Carlos Fierro and Shea Salinas. After Ilie Sanchez pulled Sporting level early in the second half, 18-year-old Gianluca Busio became the youngest MLS player to record a goal and an assist in a playoff match by firing the hosts ahead in the 91st minute. Not to be outdone, Chris Wondolowski salvaged a last-gasp equalizer for San Jose to force 30 minutes of scoreless extra time.
In the dramatic penalty shootout, Melia stood tall by saving spot kicks from Osvaldo Alanis, Jackson Yueill and Cristian Espinoza to improve to 6-0 in penalty shootouts throughout his career. Ilie, Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton all converted their attempts to send Sporting to the next round.