Starting XI, presented by StorageMart, is a biweekly series that highlights 11 of the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City, MLS and soccer around the globe. Click here to visit the Starting XI archive.
1. New Year, New Number
Sporting Kansas City has confirmed jersey number updates for five players heading into the 2020 MLS season. With new arrivals joining the club and two returnees making switches from 2019, the numerical roster has a slightly different look.
At the forefront, Sporting's two international imports have selected numbers for their debut campaigns in Major League Soccer. Mexican striker Alan Pulido will wear No. 9, the same number he has donned for the majority of his professional career in Liga MX, while Croatian center back Roberto Puncec has taken No. 4.
2. Model of Consistency
The 2010s brought incredible coaching stability to Kansas City professional sports teams and area college programs. Sporting Kansas City was certainly no exception, as Manager Peter Vermes became the longest-tenured head coach in MLS history while leading the club to eight consecutive playoff appearances and four major championships—the 2013 MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups in 2012, 2015 and 2017.
In the Kansas City Star’s decade-in-review, SportsBeat KC podcast host Blair Kerkhoff joined KC Star columnists Sam Mellinger and Vahe Gregorian to discuss Vermes’ legacy alongside the respective achievements of Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, former Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self and former Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel.
3. President on the Pod
This offseason has been a bit different from the norm for Sporting Kansas City, prompting the front office to be proactive as a new decade begins. And with the 2020 campaign fast approaching, fans have more than a few things to be excited about as Children's Mercy Park prepares to up the ante on its matchday experience.
These are the prevailing themes in a new episode of The Nutmeg Podcast, which treats listeners to a detailed discussion between 610 Sports Radio host Josh Klingler and Sporting Kansas City President and CEO Jake Reid.
5. Hidden Gem
There are plenty of examples throughout MLS history of draft selections who carve out lengthy and impactful professional careers. With the 2020 SuperDraft on the horizon, MLSsoccer.com took a look back at some of the greatest steals in the event's history. Among them was Sporting Kansas City star Graham Zusi.
Inarguably one of the club’s greatest and most accomplished players all-time, Zusi wasn't exactly a heralded prospect when he arrived in Kansas City from the University of Maryland as a second-round SuperDraft pick in 2009. Twenty-two players, including Kansas City’s first-round selection Matt Besler, were taken ahead of him during that fateful January day in St. Louis, Missouri.
6. Roaring Twenties
By and large, the 2010s treated Sporting Kansas City remarkably well. Under the guidance of Manager Peter Vermes and backed by a fervent fanbase at electric Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting experienced a slew of euphoric highs—as chronicled in SportingKC.com’s Top 20 Moments of the Decade—and painted the wall on four occasions thanks to winning the 2013 MLS Cup and a treble of Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles.
Now that this prosperous chapter has ended, Sporting faces a blank slate and an opportunity to build on past successes. On that note, Sporting fans have plenty to be excited about as the club prepares for 2020. In fact, we can rattle off exactly 20 reasons that supporters should be licking their chops for next season.
Over the last 10 years, few professional sports franchises have experienced a more transformational journey than Sporting Kansas City. From Wizards to Sporting, from minor league baseball park to world-class soccer stadium, from MLS afterthought to perennial title contender, the 2010s ushered in a Kansas City soccer renaissance as Sporting enjoyed a meteoric rise both on and off the pitch.
Throughout this decade of success, everyone tied to the club—from players and coaches to owners and fans—made priceless memories that will last a lifetime. As this epic chapter ends and the page turns to 2020, SportingKC.com has counted down the top 20 moments of the decade. The series looks back on the biggest matches, announcements and off-the-field developments that left lasting impacts on the club. The top 20 list was determined through voting among front office associates at Sporting.
8. Sun Cup
Sporting Kansas City will compete in the Visit Tucson Sun Cup as part of the club’s 2020 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine. Phoenix Rising FC (USL Championship) and FC Tucson (USL League One) announced today the participants for MLS Preseason in Arizona and the 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson.
The 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup will feature a six-team field of Sporting, Rising FC, Columbus Crew SC, Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake. The tournament will run from Feb. 15-22, leading up to Sporting’s MLS regular season opener at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Feb. 29.
9. Get Caught Up
We get it. The holidays can be a busy time of year. But the Major League Soccer news cycle doesn’t pause. Quite the opposite, in fact. Mindful of that, here are MLSsoccer.com's 10 most important storylines you might have missed as we rang in 2020.
10. Soccer Almanac
A new year – and a new decade! – is at hand, and 2020 is shaping up as a big one across North American soccer. Here are all the key dates to mark on your calendar, courtesy of MLSsoccer.com's 2020 Soccer Almanac.
11. Good Samaritans
Sporting and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City will once again team up throughout 2020 to recognize Blue KC Sporting Samaritans, honoring students and teachers for their praiseworthy roles in the community. Once a month, a Samaritan will be recognized on the pitch at Children's Mercy Park before a Sporting home match. The Samaritan and a limited number of guests will receive a behind-the-scenes VIP experience with a wide variety of all-inclusive perks. Supporters can nominate members of their community to be the next Blue KC Sporting Samaritan at SportingKC.com/BlueKC.