This Week in Sporting - Nov. 8, 2021

"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. Decision Day Controversy

Sporting Kansas City (17-10-7, 58 points) fell 1-0 to Real Salt Lake (14-14-6, 48 points) in a tense and controversial regular season finale on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park. Damir Kreilach struck the game’s lone goal in the 95th minute, vaulting Real Salt Lake into the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs at the expense of a Sporting side that finishes third in the Western Conference.

Disputation mired Sunday’s match in the 89th minute. With the score 0-0, Sporting's Roger Espinoza ran in behind the RSL backline and chested the ball down inside the box to line up a shot with only goalkeeper David Ochoa to beat. RSL defender Justen Glad retreated and touched the bouncing ball with his hand, denying Espinoza his opportunity to shoot. The flashbulb moment was checked for a possible handball infraction, but VAR Younes Marrakchi saw no offense and did not prompt head referee Ted Unkel to review the play.

2. Whitecaps Await

Sporting Kansas City will host Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Round One of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. Tickets for the conference quarterfinal clash are available at SeatGeek.com and additional information, include date, kickoff time and broadcast details, will be announced soon.

As the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, Sporting will host the sixth-seeded Whitecaps after splitting two regular season meetings with Vancouver earlier this year. Sporting posted a 3-0 home win on May 16, riding an Alan Pulido brace and a strike from Daniel Salloi, before falling 2-1 at Vancouver on Oct. 17.

The winner between Sporting and Vancouver will advance to the Western Conference Semifinals later this month, facing either No. 2 seed Seattle Sounders FC or No. 7 seed Real Salt Lake. The conference championships are slated for Dec. 4-5 and the 2021 MLS Cup will take place at 2 p.m. CT on Dec. 11.

Sporting have reached the MLS Cup Playoffs in 10 of the last 11 seasons and will be playing for their third league championship this fall, having hoisted the MLS Cup in 2000 and 2013. Sporting Manager Peter Vermes—who won the 2000 title as a player and the 2013 title as a coach—has set an MLS record with his 17th combined playoff appearance as either a player (seven) or a head coach (10).

3. Pierre Joins USA U-20s

Sporting Kansas City defender Kayden Pierre has been named to the United States U-20 Men’s National Team for the Revelations Cup in Celaya, Mexico.

Pierre, an 18-year-old right back and a product of the Sporting Kansas City Academy, has joined a 23-player squad assembled by new U.S. U-20 head coach Mikey Varas for a round-robin tournament consisting of marquee matches against Brazil on Wednesday, Colombia on Saturday and Mexico on Nov. 16. All three fixtures will air live on TUDN.

The Revelations Cup marks the first U.S. training camp of the new U-20 cycle as the Americans begin preparation for the 2022 Concacaf Championship, which will serve as qualification for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia as well as the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

4. Paint the Wall Pennants

In celebration of Sporting Kansas City’s upcoming run in the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, Sporting has released Paint the Wall captain’s pennants made in Kansas City by local supplier Sandlot Goods.

The limited-edition pennants will be available for fans to purchase for $15 while supplies last at upcoming Sporting KC home matches inside SportingStyle retail locations at Children’s Mercy Park. In addition, online orders can be placed at SandlotGoods.com beginning today.

Paint the Wall is Sporting’s official marketing campaign for the 2021 postseason and a longstanding reference to the club’s iconic tradition of commemorating championships on the wall in the northwest corner of Children’s Mercy Park.

A portion of proceeds from all Paint the Wall captain’s pennant sales will go directly to The Victory Project, Sporting Kansas City’s philanthropic foundation, as part of the club’s season-long “A Force For Good” campaign.

Launched in March with a Mid-America Emmy award-winning public service announcement, Sporting’s “A Force For Good” campaign has supported children across the region, served crucial community needs and raised funds for The Victory Project through a variety of initiatives and events in conjunction with local partners. For more information, click here.

5. The 2022 Schedule

Major League Soccer announced last week the schedule format and conference alignment for the 2022 MLS season.

To best align with the 2022 international soccer calendar, the MLS regular season will begin earlier than ever before, kicking off on Saturday, Feb. 26, and run through Decision Day, the regular season finale, on Sunday, Oct. 9.

Following three consecutive weeks of Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs action, MLS Cup will be played on Saturday, Nov. 5, more than two weeks prior to the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21 and more than a week prior to the player release date on Nov. 14.

For more information about the 2022 MLS schedule, click here.

6. Tune in Wednesday

The Sporting KC Show will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB from 7-8 p.m. CT on Wednesday 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.