"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. To visit the series archive, click here.
1. Raise the Curtains
For all intents and purposes, 2020 was rough. Such is the reality when a pandemic turns the world upside down. The widespread effects of COVID-19 will be felt well into the future, but as the calendar turns to 2021—and with a coronavirus vaccine just around the corner—there is legitimate reason to feel hope and excitement. It may not happen overnight, but 2021 has widely been tabbed as a steady return to sweet normalcy.
With that in mind, 2021 projects to be a momentous year for MLS and for Sporting Kansas City. Amidst the doldrums of recent times, why should you feel excited for what is to come? Glad you asked. SportingKC.com has listed 21 soccer-centric things to look forward to over the next 12 months, so raise a glass to the new year and dive right in.
2. A Busy Year Ahead
Taking a glance at the 2021 calendar, this year promises to be a thrilling one for Major League Soccer fanatics and casual soccer followers alike. From the resurrection of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to several marquee international tournaments at the club and international level, here are all of the high-profile competitions to keep an eye on in 2021.
3. The Academy
Audi and Bleacher Report cast a spotlight on the Sporting Kansas City Academy and its youth talent development system throughout the fall of 2020 with a five-part series called "The Academy." The documentary-style program provided an all-access look at the commitments and sacrifices that young athletes make within the Academy and gave fans a first-hand account of how Sporting Kansas City and Audi are working to ensure the next generation of athletes is ready to compete at an elite level. Check out all five episodes by clicking here.
4. Free Agents
The MLS offseason is in full swing with free agency now open following the End-of-Year-Waivers process, allowing veterans throughout the league to engage with and sign with any club. Eligible players are 24 years of age and older, have five MLS service years and are out of contract or have had their option declined. Free Agents can negotiate a new contract with any MLS club, including their previous team, subject to certain restrictions.
This should make for some interesting movement around the league, with this year's list of Free Agents containing many proven talents across MLS. Check out the full list of this year's eligible Free Agents by clicking here.
5. Elite Newcomer
As Major League Soccer grows, so does the annual crop of influential transfers from abroad. The 2020 campaign was no exception, as MLS welcomed a slew of outstanding newcomers over the course of the year. MLSsoccer.com contributor Greg Seltzer released his list of the top 10 inbound transfers of the 2020 MLS season last week, tabbing Sporting Kansas City striker Alan Pulido at No. 6.
6. Sporting Signs Walter
In case you missed it, Sporting signed 25-year-old French midfielder Remi Walter late last month. Walter has signed a three-year MLS contract through 2023 with an option for 2024 and will occupy an international slot on Sporting’s roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 visa.
Walter has amassed nearly 200 professional appearances since 2012, spanning seven full seasons in his native France and one season in Turkey. The left-footed central midfielder, who has represented France at the U-17 through U-21 levels, boasts experience in several prestigious European competitions, including the UEFA Europa League, UEFA Champions League qualifying, French Ligue 1—where he has scored three goals in 74 matches—and the Turkish Super Lig.