Starting XI, presented by Ford, 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. The Gershow Continues

Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City extended their home unbeaten streak to 17 regular season matches with a 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact on Saturday. Gerso scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season in the 24th minute, and despite marked dominance by Manager Peter Vermes’ men throughout the night, Montreal leveled late through substitute Matteo Mancosu to split the points.


2. We Want the Cup

Sporting Kansas City will now shift gears to the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, where they will host Minnesota United FC in the competition’s round of 32 on Wednesday. The match will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT and tickets are available via SeatGeek.com. The all-MLS matchup will also stream live on SportingKC.com, pitting two teams who have battled in two of the previous three Open Cups. Sporting KC won both meetings, claiming a 2-0 home victory in 2014 before prevailing 2-1 in extra time last summer in Blaine, Minnesota. Sporting KC is looking to claim a fourth Open Cup title, having lifted the trophy in 2004, 2012 and 2015.


3. Brilliant Bradley

A scintillating long-range strike from Michael Bradley lifted the U.S. Men’s National Team to a valuable 1-1 draw against archrivals Mexico on Sunday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Sporting KC defender Graham Zusi earned his 48th cap as a 92nd-minute substitute, helping the U.S. MNT collect a huge point in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal round of FIFA World Cup Qualifying. His club teammate Matt Besler was an unused substitute as the Americans extended their unbeaten streak at the vaunted Estadio Azteca to three matches dating back to 2012.


FOX Soccer’s Ryan Rosenblatt shares his 11 takeaways from the heated stalemate, while SI.com’s Grant Wahl writes that the Americans are continuing to gain a team essence under head coach Bruce Arena.


4. Globetrotters

Just as Matt Besler and Graham Zusi return to Kansas City after a successful stint with the U.S. Men’s National Team, two other Sporting KC players will represent their respective countries on Tuesday to close out FIFA’s summer international window. Defender Tyler Pasher, who scored in Canada’s intra-squad scrimmage on Thursday, will look to collect his first senior team cap when Curacao visits Stade Saputo for a friendly in Montreal. Halfway around the world, meanwhile, Soony Saad has linked up with Lebanon for a 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


5. Fifteen Step

This afternoon, goal scorer Gerso was joined by right back Saad Abdul-Salaam on MLSsoccer.com’s Team of the Week for Week 15. In addition to scoring, the diminutive Gerso created two chances, won five duels, completed 24 of his 28 passes and finished with a game-high eight touches in the opponent’s box. Abdul-Salaam, who scored his first MLS goal a week earlier in a 3-0 win over Minnesota United FC, made his second start of 2017 on Saturday and helped Sporting KC preserve 66 percent possession while completing 40 of 47 passes.


6. Rangers Ride Roughnecks

The Swope Park Rangers used a late surge on Sunday to defeat Tulsa Roughnecks FC by a 3-1 scoreline at Children’s Mercy Victory Field inside Swope Soccer Village. Forward Cameron Iwasa fired SPR ahead with a stunning long-range strike early in the second half, and although Tulsa (5-6-0, 15 points) drew level on an unfortunate own goal from Oumar Ballo, Mark Anthony Gonzalez  struck twice in stoppage time to lift the Rangers (5-4-1, 16 points) to seventh place in the Western Conference.


The Rangers will continue their homestand Sunday when they host star-studded Phoenix Rising FC (5-5-0, 15 points). Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. CT as SPR squares off against a Phoenix side whose roster includes African legend Didier Drogba, former Mexico international Omar Bravo and former England international Shaun Wright-Phillips. Tickets for the highly anticipated matchup are on sale via SeatGeek.com and will be available for purchase at the venue box office on matchday.


7. Open Cup on Deck

The 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup hits another gear this week as 19 MLS clubs enter the competition in the round of 32. All 16 fourth-round matches will be streamed live on U.S. Soccer’s YouTube channel, including Tuesday’s mouthwatering clash between Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers. Click here for the full tournament schedule and results.


The 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup began with a modern-era record 99 teams in a single-elimination, bracket-style format. Upon completion of the fourth round, the 16 remaining clubs will be placed in a fixed bracket and divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four. A random draw on Thursday will then determine the fifth-round pairings within each group. The 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion will receive $250,000 as well as a spot in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League. Sporting Kansas City has won the title three times — in 2004, 2012 and 2015.


8. Three Lions Roar

The England U-20 Men’s National Team became the first English national team to reach and win a world final in 51 years, following in the steps of the 1966 World Cup champions by beating Venezuela 1-0 on Sunday to hoist the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup title. England U-20 coach Paul Simpson backed his team’s players to succeed at the senior level in the coming years, noting that the combined quality and unity in the squad will resonate well into the future.


9. Iran’s Road to Russia

Iran became the first Asian nation to punch a ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after defeating Uzbekistan 2-0 this afternoon. The Iranians join Brazil as the only countries to have qualified for the quadrennial tournament so far, and will be appearing in back-to-back World Cups for the first time in their history.


10. More than Messi?

Are Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane and Dele Alli both worth more than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? According to a new study by the CIES Football Observatory, the answer is yes. The 24-year-old Kane and 21-year-old Alli rank second and third most valuable players in the world, behind only Barcelona star Neymar. Messi is fourth and Ronaldo is 11th on the list, which is based on numerous factors, such as overall performance, age, position even the international status of their clubs.  


11. Mazuma Magic

Mazuma Credit Union and Sporting Kansas City are hosting a Matchday Experience sweepstakes now through Thursday. Sporting Kansas City fans who enter the sweepstakes will have the opportunity to win tickets to a future Sporting KC home match in 2017, including a pregame tour, field access for pregame warmups and access inside the postgame press conference. The winner will also receive a $100 Visa gift card and a customized Sporting KC jersey. Click here to participate.


Games to Watch (June 13-15)

<strong>DATE/TIME&nbsp;(CT)</strong>
<strong>GAME</strong>
<strong>COMPETITION</strong>
<strong>CHANNEL</strong>
Tuesday, 2pm
France vs. England
International Friendly
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
Tuesday, 8:30pm
Panama vs. Honduras
World Cup Qualifying (CONCACAF)
beIN SPORTS
Tuesday, 9:30pm
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers
U.S. Open Cup
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/ussoccerdotcom">U.S. Soccer YouTube</a>
<strong>Wednesday, 7:30pm</strong>
<strong>Sporting KC vs. Minnesota United FC</strong>
<strong>U.S. Open Cup</strong>
<strong><a href="http://www.sportingkc.com">SportingKC.com</a></strong>
Wednesday, 9:30pm
Sacramento Republic FC vs. Real Salt Lake
U.S. Open Cup
<a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/ussoccerdotcom">U.S. Soccer YouTube</a>