Starting XI 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. Desert Diamond Debut
Sporting KC fans, you’re about to get that sweet dose of soccer you’ve been craving for months. The team will play its Desert Diamond Cup opener on Wednesday at noon against the Colorado Rapids, with a live stream available on SportingKC.com and FOX Sports GO. With new faces representing one third of the team, the game marks the first opportunity for fans to watch the new talent in action after Sporting KC’s first two preseason games were covered on Twitter.
2. Jersey Launch
New year, new look. Sporting KC dropped its new primary jersey on Friday in conjunction with the launch of its “We. Together.” marketing campaign. Fans can purchase the jersey beginning Feb. 28, four days before the club debuts the uniform at D.C. United on March 4. Like previous primary kits, the new edition retains a Sporting blue background while introducing several new elements — most notably a white, button-down collar, white shorts, and a “No Other Club” wordmark on the right sleeve in defender Matt Besler’s handwriting. Click here to take a closer look at the primary jersey.
In conjunction with Friday’s jersey unveil, Sporting KC launched their 2017 marketing campaign with the slogan “We. Together.” The mantra focuses on celebrating all that our fans and the club have achieved together. A TV commercial that featured hundreds of dedicated fans accompanied the campaign, while Jesse Holt of KC Kingdom believes the campaign represents Midwestern values.
4. Youth Movement
With a keen eye for the future, Sporting KC is dedicating resources to its youth academy like never before. The KC Star’s Sam McDowell inked an in-depth feature on the Sporting KC Academy last week, detailing the club’s commitment to developing young prospects as a means of staying competitive in MLS — a league in which spending for big-name players has skyrocketed. As Manager Peter Vermes explains in the article, “We’re not going to be investing millions of dollars into a few players. We have to take that money and invest it in a structure that will create those players ourselves.” Click here to read the full feature.
5. Swope Sundays
The Swope Park Rangers ramp up their preseason preparations this weekend when the side hosts UMKC in a scrimmage at Swope Soccer Village on Sunday. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and is free to attend. The Rangers continued to add to their roster with the signings of Lebo Moloto and David Greczek last week, while a number of Academy players and trialists are also in camp looking to earn a contract.
6. Captain America
Sporting KC defender Erik Palmer-Brown will don the captain’s armband when the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team competes at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship later this month in San Jose, Costa Rica. The 19-year-old homegrown is one of the most experienced players on the U-20 roster and is poised to lead the Americans during the CONCACAF competition, which doubles as a qualifying tournament for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in May. Manager Peter Vermes recently spoke about Palmer-Brown’s increased maturity, while MLSsoccer.com took a broader look at head coach Tab Ramos’ 20-man U.S. roster, which includes 11 players from MLS clubs.
7. Nominations open for Blue KC Sporting Samaritan
The Blue KC Sporting Samaritan program is returning for its second year, with fans encouraged to nominate those in the community that make Kansas City a better place to live, work and play. Blue KC Sporting Samaritans will be recognized during the pregame festivities at Sporting KC home games at Children’s Mercy Park. The Samaritan and their three guests will not only participate in the on-field experience but will also receive a behind the scenes VIP experience, four tickets to the game, a parking pass and a $50 gift card redeemable for Sporting KC merchandise.
8. Academy in Action
After a lengthy winter break, the Sporting KC U-18s and U-16s returned to the field Saturday to pick up a pair of wins against Solar Chelsea SC. The result will give the U-16s momentum heading into the Generation adidas Cup, which continues this weekend in Houston with three games against fellow MLS academies. Other Sporting KC Academy sides, meanwhile, will spend Presidents’ Day weekend competing at the U.S. Youth Futsal National Championships, taking place at nearby New Century Fieldhouse and Roeland Park Dome in Johnson County.
9. Steady Fredy?
One of the most lethal MLS players in recent history may be making his return to the Pacific Northwest. Fredy Montero, previously of Seattle Sounders FC, looks set to join Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps FC, if Colombian outlet El Heraldo is to be believed. The 29-year-old had 47 goals and 34 assists in 119 games for Seattle from 2009-12, and is rumored to be heading to Vancouver on loan from Chinese club Tianjin Teda. Charles Boehm digs deeper into the story on MLSSoccer.com, while ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle looks at what it’ll take to bring the exciting goalscorer back to MLS.
10. Stadium in STL?
Sporting KC might be welcoming a St. Louis rival to MLS in the near future. On Friday, the final MLS financing bill was passed by the St. Louis Board of Alderman, paving way for a municipal vote to solidify the city’s MLS expansion bid. On April 4, locals will vote on a proposal for funding for a new stadium in downtown. St. Louis is one of 12 prospective cities hoping to land an MLS franchise during expansion. The League currently plans to grow to 28 clubs by 2020.
11. Goliath vs. Goliath
The UEFA Champions League knockout stage gets underway this week, with several heavyweight matchups taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday. Alex Dowd discusses why every team remaining has an opportunity to be crowned champions of Europe, while the ESPN FC staff attempts to predict this week’s outcomes. Michael Peng of SBISoccer.com delves into which games to keep an eye on, and previews the major showdowns.
GAMES TO WATCH
|DATE/TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||TV CHANNEL|
|Tue., Feb. 14||PSG vs. Barcelona||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Tue., Feb. 14||Benfica vs. Borussia Dortmund||UEFA Champions League||FS2|
|Wed., Feb. 15||Sporting KC vs. Colorado Rapids||Desert Diamond Cup||SportingKC.com,
FOX Sports GO
|Wed., Feb. 15||Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal||UEFA Champions League||FS1|
|Wed., Feb. 15||Real Madrid vs. Napoli||UEFA Champions League||FS2|
|Thu., Feb. 16||St. Etienne vs. Manchester United||UEFA Europa League||FS1|
|Thu., Feb. 16||Villarreal vs. AS Roma||UEFA Europa League||FS2|