"This Week in Sporting," presented by The Smile Generation, is a weekly series that highlights the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City.
1. Tied for First
Following a 2-1 loss at Minnesota United FC on Sunday, Sporting Kansas City enters the final week of the 2021 MLS regular season in a three-way tie for first place atop the Western Conference. Already assured of opening the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs with a home match at Children's Mercy Park later this month, Sporting can now clinch a first-round bye in the postseason as the West's No. 1 seed as well as a berth in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League by finishing among top three in the Supporters' Shield standings.
Forward Khiry Shelton scored his third goal of the campaign in Sunday's narrow defeat as captain Johnny Russell extended his club-record streak to nine straight matches with a goal or an assist. The result leaves Sporting on 58 points, level with Seattle Sounders FC and the Colorado Rapids, but Manager Peter Vermes' men own head-to-head tiebreakers over both teams.
2. Decisive Double Matchweek
To begin the week, Sporting (17-8-7, 58 points) will make their first-ever trip to Austin FC (8-20-4, 28 points) on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. CT kick off at Q2 Stadium. Bally Sports Kansas City and Bally Sports Midwest will carry three hours of live coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT and fans are invited to attend a Sporting KC watch party at No Other Pub in the Power & Light District.
On Sunday, Sporting will renew their longstanding rivalry with Real Salt Lake (13-13-6, 45 points) at 5 p.m. CT at Children's Mercy Park as the MLS regular season comes to a close on Decision Day. Tickets are available online at SeatGeek.com and the match will be televised on Bally Sports Kansas City and Bally Sports Midwest with local radio coverage available on ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM.
3. Playoff Tickets Available
Tickets for Sporting Kansas City's opening match in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs at Children's Mercy Park are now on sale via SeatGeek.com. Matches in Round One of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs will be held Nov. 20, Nov. 21 and Nov. 23 followed by the Conference Semifinals on Nov. 25, Nov. 28 and Nov. 30. The postseason bracket, including playoff matchups, will be set at the conclusion of the regular season on Sunday and MLS will announce match times and dates, as well as broadcast information.
4. Player of the Week
Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell was voted MLS Player of the Week and was also selected to the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi last Thursday after his brace propelled Sporting to a 2-0 home win on Wednesday against the LA Galaxy.
Russell earned the honors for Week 33 of the 2021 MLS season following his sixth career multi-goal match and second brace of the season. The forward netted his first goal in the 40th minute in which he skipped a shot past the keeper from inside the penalty area and then sealed the match in the 82nd minute by blasting a shot into the upper corner of the far post from a tight angle.
5. Award Nominees
Major League Soccer announced last week the nominees for the 2021 End of Year Awards. MLS will release a list of finalists prior to the start of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
MLS Year-End Awards will be determined through voting from three groups:
- Current MLS players
- MLS clubs (coaches, technical directors/general managers)
- Select media members representing local and national outlets who consistently covered the 2021 MLS regular season
Additionally, fans will have the opportunity to weigh in on the top plays of the season with both the AT&T Goal of the Year and MLS Save of the Year presented by Allstate by casting their votes on MLSsoccer.com.
Click here for the list of nominees for each award, including the following Sporting Kansas City representatives:
Sporting KC Nominees: 2021 MLS End of Year Awards
- Landon Donovan MLS MVP: Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell
- MLS Defender of the Year: Andreu Fontas and Ilie Sanchez
- MLS Comeback Player of the Year: Daniel Salloi
- Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year: Tim Melia
- MLS Newcomer of the Year: Remi Walter
- Young Player of the Year: Jaylin Lindsey and Cam Duke
- MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year: Ilie Sanchez
- Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year: Peter Vermes
6. Sporting on Sports Radio 810 WHB
The Sporting KC Show will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB from 6-7 p.m. CT on Tuesday with hosts Nate Bukaty, Aly Trost and Conall McCourt. The Sporting KC Show Podcast is available on Spotify, iTunes and SportingKC.com, giving supporters a weekly destination to catch up on club storylines, player achievements, guest interviews and more.
Sports Radio 810 WHB will also feature additional Sporting KC coverage this week as Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes will be a guest on The Program with Soren Petro at 2:25 p.m. CT on Wednesday and Sporting KC captain Johnny Russell will join The Border Patrol with hosts Nate Bukaty and Steven St. John.