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.
This installment of our playoff preview sets the table for everything at stake as Sporting Kansas City approaches the postseason.
On the heels of an exciting regular season campaign, Manager Peter Vermes’ men will begin their playoff journey in the friendly confines of Children's Mercy Park with ultimate hopes of bringing MLS Cup glory back to Kansas City for the first time in eight years.
With Sporting’s playoff opener against Vancouver just around the corner, we examine why the 2021 postseason has so much on the line.
1. Three's Company
Only the LA Galaxy (five) and D.C. United (four) have three or more MLS Cups. Sporting, Columbus Crew SC, Houston Dynamo FC, Seattle Sounders FC and the San Jose Earthquakes are all on two apiece. Sporting will certainly hope that they join LA and D.C. as clubs boasting three or more titles.
On a related note, Sporting also has the opportunity to become the only MLS club with three MLS Cups and three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups since the turn of the millennium in 2000.
2. Concacaf Champions League
This one is straightforward. Win the MLS Cup and you receive a berth to the 2022 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, the premier club competition in North America. The tournament has been a gauntlet for MLS teams since its inception, but it’s only a matter of time before an MLS club breaks through as the winner and represents the league at the FIFA Club World Cup.
3. Legacies Cemented
The likes of Graham Zusi, Tim Melia and Roger Espinoza are in the twilights of their respective careers. An MLS Cup victory would only strengthen their legacies as club legends. High-caliber players such as Johnny Russell, Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda, Ilie Sanchez and Andreu Fontas will also want to leave an indelible mark in Kansas City folklore by painting the wall in the northwest corner of Children's Mercy Park.
That's not to mention Vermes, who would inarguably cement his status as one of North America's all-time great soccer coaches with his second MLS Cup at the helm.
4. Title Town
Sporting has the platform to continue a glorious run of major professional sports championships in the City of Fountains. Vermes' men got the ball rolling with an MLS Cup title 2013, the Kansas City Royals followed with a 2015 World Series, and the Chiefs won the Super Bowl in early 2020.
Kansas City has enjoyed an unprecedented run of professional sports success over the last eight years, and Sporting are more than capable of adding to the storybook.
Despite finishing near the top of the West with an attractive and high-scoring style of soccer, Sporting hasn’t exactly captured the imagination of pundits and casual observers across the country. As a small-market team, Vermes’ side often takes a backseat in the discussion of legitimate title contenders. That narrative would change with another Sporting championship in 2021.