Starting XI, presented by StorageMart, is a biweekly series on SportingKC.com 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. Captain Busio
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio captained the United States in a 0-0 draw against Japan on Wednesday at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup. After scoring for the U.S. on Sunday in a 4-1 loss to Senegal, Busio once again started and played the full 90 minutes at Estádio Kléber Andrade in Cariacica, Brazil.
2. Saturday Showdown
Occupying third place in Group D, the United States will now travel to Goiânia, Brazil, to face European champions Netherlands at 5:50 p.m. CT on Saturday at Estádio da Serrinha. The Group D finale will be nationally televised live on FS2 and NBC Universo.
The 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup features 24 nations divided into six groups of four teams. The top two teams in the group will automatically advance to the Knockout Stage. In addition, the four best third-place teams among the six groups will also advance to the Round of 16.
3. Seattle Stuns LAFC
Seattle Sounders FC are heading to MLS Cup for the third time in four years, as game-changing performances from Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro paced a 3-1 upset win over top-seeded LAFC at Banc of California Stadium in the Western Conference Final on Tuesday. It was only the second home loss suffered by LAFC in 2019.
4. Toronto tops Atlanta
Like the Sounders, Toronto FC are returning to their third MLS Cup Final in four years after defeating Atlanta United 2-1 in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Toronto's win solidifies the matchup for MLS Cup 2019, as the Reds will visit Seattle for a 2 p.m. CT kickoff on Sunday, Nov. 10, on ABC. Toronto and Seattle met in the 2016 and 2017 editions of MLS Cup at BMO Field, with the Sounders winning on penalties in 2016 before the Reds exacted their revenge the following year.
5. Sporting Stat
With this week's conference final results in the bag, Sporting Kansas City still has not lost to the eventual MLS Cup champion in the regular season since falling to LA Galaxy in May 2011. That streak will extend to 8 full seasons in 2019. Sporting earned a 2-2 draw at Toronto FC on June 7 and posted a pair of 3-2 wins over the Sounders this year, prevailing at Children's Mercy Park on May 26 and at CenturyLink Field on Aug. 4.
6. Get Your Game On
The eSporting Classic is coming to Smash.gg this Saturday, giving fans the opportunity to compete to become the next eMLS player for Sporting Kansas City. Registration for the inaugural event is now open, and players can click here for full details.
7. The Truce
In celebration of a long-standing Boxing Day tradition, the National World War I Museum, The Soccer Lot and Sporting Kansas City will host the seventh annual Truce 3v3 Soccer Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 26, with festivities beginning at 8 a.m. CT.
8. Proud Partner
Sporting Kansas City and Ivy Investments announced Wednesday the transition of a multifaceted partnership that began in 2013. The 2020 Major League Soccer season will be the final year that Sporting Kansas City features Ivy Investments as the club’s jersey sponsor, concluding one of the longest and most distinguished MLS jersey sponsorships to date.
9. Dynamic Duo
Sporting Kansas City Academy forward Gage Akalu and defender Nati Clarke played leading roles for United States U-15 Boys’ National Team last week at the U-15 UEFA Development Tournament in Poland. Akalu and Clarke both appeared in all three matches of the competition as the USA defeated Iceland 2-1 on Oct. 21 before taking penalty shootout losses to Poland on Oct. 23 and Russia on Oct. 25.
Akalu made full use of his lone start with two goals in a wild 3-3 draw with Poland, slotting home in the fourth minute to give the Americans a 1-0 lead and bagging a penalty kick just before halftime to put his side on top 3-2. Clarke was also instrumental, donning the captain’s armband versus Iceland and Russia and converting his penalties in dramatic shootouts against Poland and Russia.
10. Saturday at Swope
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-15s and U-17s are off this weekend, but the U-19s will resume their regular season campaign on Saturday against fellow MLS academy Real Salt Lake. The contest is set for 11 a.m. CT at Swope Soccer Village and admission is free and open to the public. Fans can also follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates.
11. Save the Dates
Major League Soccer has announced the dates and details for the 2019 postseason roster mechanisms as current MLS clubs and MLS expansion clubs alike make crucial decisions about their 2020 rosters. On Nov. 19, the 2019 Expansion Draft will consist of Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC selecting five players each from the eligible player list.
Following the Expansion Draft, clubs will have an additional two days to make final determinations on their rosters prior to a Nov. 21 option exercise deadline. On Nov. 22, MLS Communications will release the list of players eligible for each of the postseason roster mechanisms, including the End-of-Year Waivers, Free Agency and the Re-Entry Process.