This Week in Sporting - Sept. 20, 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. Back to the Top

Sporting Kansas City (13-5-7, 46 points) surged to first place in the Western Conference following a rampant 4-0 win over Minnesota United FC (9-8-7, 34 points) last Wednesday at Children's Mercy Park.

Forwards Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell all found the back of the net before halftime and Cam Duke added a fourth goal early in the second half as Sporting sealed a comprehensive victory against their Midwestern rivals and displaced Seattle Sounders FC at the summit of the West. Outplayed over the course of 90 minutes, the visiting Loons failed to put a shot on target and suffered their sixth regular season loss at Children’s Mercy Park in as many visits.

2. Top Two Square off

Sporting was off this weekend and will return to Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday for a monumental showdown with second-place Seattle Sounders FC (13-5-6, 45 points) at 6 p.m. CT. Tickets for the marquee matchup are available at SeatGeek.com as a pair of MLS Cup contenders lock horns on FS1, FOX Deportes, ESPN 94.5 FM and La Grande 1340 AM.

The two most successful Western Conference clubs over the last decade previously met on July 25 in Seattle when Sporting emerged victorious in a 3-1 result that saw Daniel Salloi, Cam Duke and Johnny Russell find the back of the net. Sporting and Seattle have won four major championships since 2012, the most among American MLS clubs.

3. Kick Childhood Cancer

Sunday will see Sporting and The Victory Project celebrate Kick Childhood Cancer Night, featuring an Honoree Homecoming with a VIP experience for over 165 previous Victory Project Honorees and their families. Wristbands showcasing the stories of children fighting cancer will be given away to fans and up to $5,000 will be donated to Children’s Mercy Hospital through $250 donations for each Sporting KC shot in the match.

In conjunction with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Sporting is also raising funds for The Victory Project throughout September via the weekly Argyle Ace raffle and an online auction that launched last week. Additionally, patients at Children’s Mercy will receive Sporting pajamas in partnership with Continental Tire and children at the hospital will have the opportunity to interact with Sporting players on Tuesday during a customized game of Hollywood Squares.

4. Watch the USWNT in KC

Tickets are now available via Ticketmaster.com for a highly anticipated match between the United States Women's National Team and Korea Republic on Oct. 21 at Children's Mercy Park.

Winners of four FIFA World Cups and four Olympic Games, the star-studded U.S. WNT will travel to Kansas City with a roster featuring the players from this summer’s bronze-medal winning Olympic Team. The squad includes captain Becky Sauerbrunn, Kansas City NWSL goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and three of the top scorers in U.S. Soccer history with Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.

The match at Children's Mercy Park will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and air live nationally on ESPN2 and TUDN.

5. Team of the Week Stars

In a 4-0 thumping of Minnesota United FC that saw several Sporting players shine last Wednesday at Children's Mercy Park, captain Johnny Russell was the man of the match and an obvious inclusion on the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi.

Russell landed his Team of the Week honor alongside Sporting manager Peter Vermes, whose team has secured back-to-back shutout home wins to surge atop the Western Conference standings.

6. First Pitch

Sporting Kansas City start Alan Pulido took his talents to the baseball diamond on Friday night. In conjunction with the start of Hispanic Heritage Month this week, Pulido stepped up to the mound to throw the ceremonial first pitch at Kauffman Stadium as the Kansas City Royals hosted the Seattle Mariners.

As part of the experience, Pulido exchanged jerseys during pregame with Royals legend and fellow Latino Salvador Perez. Pulido presented the Royals catcher with a Sporting primary kit that had Perez' name and No. 13 on the back, and in turn received an authentic MLB jersey from Perez.

7. Champions League Update

The Concacaf Council has approved that the 2022 Concacaf Champions League slot that would have been awarded to the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion should go to the highest-ranked U.S. based Division I club (based on 2021 MLS regular season record) not already qualified. For the second straight year, the slot has to be filled following the cancellation of the Open Cup due to the global pandemic.

The United States receives four berths in the 16-team tournament. For the 2022 edition, the first three spots will be awarded to the 2021 MLS Cup champions, the 2021 MLS Supporters' Shield champions and the first-place team in the other conference.

The Concacaf Champions League is an annual event, with the winner crowned regional club champion and given the right to represent the confederation at the FIFA Club World Cup.