Starting XI 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. Amadou Returns
Sporting Kansas City announced Friday that the club has signed 26-year-old defender Amadou Dia. The left back has been added to Sporting’s roster for the 2020 season with contract options through 2022.
Dia began his professional career with Sporting as the 20th overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft out of Clemson University. He made 37 appearances for the club in all competitions during a two-year stint highlighted by a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title and consecutive playoff appearances. Dia has spent the last three seasons with perennial USL Championship contender Phoenix Rising FC, where he was named the team’s Defender of the Year in both 2018 and 2019.
2. Touchdown in Kansas City
Touchdown, Alan Pulido!
Welcomed by a deluge of snowfall and freezing temperatures, Sporting's newly acquired Mexican striker arrived in Kansas City for the first time on Saturday afternoon. The 28-year-old landed safe and sound amidst the wintry weather, greeted warmly by a host of fans at the Kansas City International Airport.
Pulido's first item on his KC to-do list? How about attend a Chiefs playoff game? The forward posted an Instagram story Sunday afternoon from his seat at raucous Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs rallied from a 24-0 deficit to post a stunning 51-31 win over the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round.
Sporting will kick off the 2020 MLS regular season on Feb. 29 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC before hosting the Houston Dynamo on March 7 in the club's highly anticipated home opener at Children's Mercy Park.
The best way to guarantee tickets for 2020 home matches at Children’s Mercy Park is to join the Sporting Kansas City family and become a Season Ticket Member. Several multi-game ticket packages for the 2020 season are also on sale now at SportingKC.com, including the limited-time Home Opener Pack that bundles the game on March 7 with two flex matches. Single-game tickets for the first half of Sporting’s home schedule will go on sale to the general public in the near future.
4. Bringing the Beef
Sporting Kansas City announced last week a new partnership with BRGR Kitchen + Bar, marking the start of the largest concessions refresh since Children’s Mercy Park opened in 2011. Locally renowned for its specialty burgers, BRGR will occupy the concession stand at section 129 of Children’s Mercy Park, offering a variety of fan-favorite menu items at every Sporting match.
The 2020 MLS SuperDraft will conclude today with the third and fourth rounds conducted via conference call. Sporting Kansas City currently holds the No. 58 overall pick in the third round and the No. 84 overall pick in the fourth round. Fans can follow today's draft action live at MLSsoccer.com beginning at 2 p.m. CT.
6. Schedule Drop
Sporting Kansas City II has announced the club’s 34-game schedule for the 2020 USL Championship regular season, highlighted by 17 home matches at world-class Children’s Mercy Park.
Tickets for Sporting KC II home games at Children’s Mercy Park will be available to purchase at SeatGeek.com at a later date. Additionally, Sporting Kansas City Season Ticket Members will once again have access to complimentary Sporting II tickets and can contact their Membership Services Executive for more information.
Sporting Kansas City’s eMLS representative posted a winning record on Thursday as Alekzandur ended his eMLS League Series One campaign with four consecutive victories. Competing in Philadelphia among 24 other gamers at the first eMLS event of 2020, Alekzandur went 6-3-3 in the qualifying round and placed 10th overall.
An up-and-down start to the day left Alekzandur with a 2-3-3 record through eight fixtures, but wins over players repping Montreal Impact, Minnesota United FC, New England Revolution and Nashville SC will give Sporting’s eMLS star momentum ahead of the next two eMLS events on the 2020 calendar.
8. Roots Revisited
Last Thursday, Overland Park’s Stanley Elementary School welcomed back one of its biggest alums ever. Almost 23 years after passing through the halls of Stanley as a proud Wildcat, Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler returned to his old stomping grounds for a school assembly involving current students, teachers and Sporting mascot Blue.
During his visit, Besler—who later attended Blue Valley West High School and the University of Notre Dame before landing at Sporting as a rookie in 2009—interacted with kids in the school’s gymnasium and popped around to other areas of the school, as well.
9. Roo Up
Kansas City Director of Athletics Dr. Brandon Martin and Sporting Kansas City President and CEO Jake Reid have announced an extension to the strategic partnership between Kansas City Athletics and Sporting Kansas City. This partnership will allow Kansas City Athletics to collaborate with one of the nation's premier professional soccer clubs.
10. Turning 25
Major League Soccer on Wednesday unveiled plans for its historic 25th Season Celebration in 2020. The Celebration will feature unique experiences, marquee events, robust content, innovative programming, and the special 25th Season commemorative design integrated throughout MLS and partner initiatives. The season will celebrate the League’s past, while expanding on the foundation it has built over an extensive period of explosive growth. In addition, MLS will welcome new clubs in Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC for the 2020 season.
11. Save the Dates
The celebration of a new year—and a new decade—means that soccer season is just around the corner. With schedules released and several other high-profile events on tap, Sporting Kansas City fans can whip out their 2020 calendars and start scribbling in the dates. Supporters have already learned details for the club’s MLS opener and first home game, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. SportingKC.com has listed the calendar highlights of 2020 at this link, complete with all of the important dates you need to know.