Starting XI: The Boys are Back in Town

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. The Boys are Back in Town

Rejoice, SKC Nation, because the wait is finally over. Sporting Kansas City is back at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday for the club’s 2017 home opener against FC Dallas. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, and a limited number of tickets are available at SeatGeek.com.

FC Dallas enters Saturday as the defending U.S. Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield champions, but recent history favors Sporting KC heading into the high-profile matchup. Goal.com’s Jon Arnold previews the encounter, while the Matchday Central page on SportingKC.com gives fans all the links and information they need ahead of kickoff, including the new Season Ticket Member Checklist.

2. Price Drop

In case you missed it, Sporting KC has lowered prices for food and beverages at Children’s Mercy Park. Yes, you read correctly. And no, we aren’t playing around.

Sporting KC and Legends Hospitality have lowered prices on water, soda and beer by an average of 20 percent from 2016. Other menu items like hot dogs, bratwursts and grilled cheeses will also be sold at lower prices. Click here for full details — and come to the stadium hungry and thirsty on Saturday.

3. Talk of the Town

Sporting Kansas City Media Day was buzzing on Tuesday at Children’s Mercy Park. Interviews with Manager Peter Vermes and players allowed various media outlets to run riot with a plethora of preseason content. MLSsoccer.com profiled U.S. U-20 hero Erik Palmer-Brown, Talkin’ Touches released multiple podcasts, The Blue Testament discussed stadium expansion and price decreases, and the Kansas City Star offered an excellent look at the construction of the  National Training and Coaching Development Center.

4. Melia Magic

If you watched last Saturday’s season opener, you remember the moment clearly. Tim Melia dove right to stop Marcelo Sarvas’ penalty kick, then sprung up to smother Patrick Mullins’ rebound attempt to keep D.C. United off the scoreboard in a 0-0 draw. It’s no surprise to us that Melia is up for MLS Save of the Week in Week 1. Fans can cast their vote here until Friday morning.

5. Benny's a Lifesaver

Your life is on the line and you need one player to make a penalty kick. Who do you pick? It turns out that many MLS players would put their lives in the hands of Benny Feilhaber, who has yet to miss a penalty in a Sporting KC uniform. This was one of many fascinating insights revealed in ESPNFC’s anonymous survey with MLS players. Among the other hot survey topics: promotion and relegation, Beckham’s Miami team, salaries, and overrated and underrated players. No holds barred here.

6. Everyone's Invited

Your Friday just got even better. Tomorrow Sporting KC will host the “We. Together.” Block Party at Town Center Plaza & Crossing in Leawood, giving fans the opportunity to win tickets, interact with Sporting KC players and enjoy a variety of interactive activities. The block party will take place from 2:30-6:30 p.m. CT, coming a day before Sporting KC’s home opener against FC Dallas.

7. Ain't No Party Like an SPR Party

Mark your calendars, Swope Park Rangers fans. The reigning USL Western Conference champions invite supporters to No Other Pub next Wednesday for a Meet the Team party from 6-7:30 p.m. Fans will be able to play bar games with players and coaches, purchase new SPR merchandise and enjoy a variety of Happy Hour specials at No Other Pub, including $1 tacos and $2 off appetizers. Click here to RSVP.

8. There's an App for That

There are more than a few reasons to download the free Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app before Saturday’s home opener. For starters, all Uphoria users will receive an offer card (think Groupon) for free Oreos at Price Chopper. Then there’s MySKC Cam, a camera within the app that gives fans the opportunity to appear on the Children’s Mercy Park videoboard. Uphoria will also allow ticketholders to gain mobile entry into the stadium as long as their ticket account is linked to SeatGeek. Download Uphoria today on the App Store and Google Play.

9. The Kids are Coming Home

Coming off an impressive weekend in Texas, the Sporting KC Academy returns to Swope Soccer Village this Saturday for a doubleheader against Texans SC Houston in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The U-18s will kick off at 10 a.m. CT before the U-16s take the field at 12:30 p.m. CT, and both games are free and open to the public. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates throughout the season.

10. Zlatan’s Galaxy?

Is one of the world’s most iconic players on his way to MLS? According to a report from SI.com’s Grant Wahl, the LA Galaxy have made a lucrative offer to Manchester United star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose contract expires in June at the end of the English Premier League season. The Swedish striker has enjoyed a fantastic year with the Red Devils but has yet to declare where he will be playing beyond this summer. As Wahl writes, “sources say that LA thinks it has a realistic shot of landing him.”

11. A Comeback for the Ages

Did that really just happen? Indeed it did — FC Barcelona shocked the soccer world on Wednesday, overturning a 4-0 aggregate deficit by defeating Paris-St. Germain 6-1 in the return leg to pull off the biggest comeback in UEFA Champions League history. The Spanish giants scored three goals in the final seven minutes of action — including the series-winner in the 95th minute — to stun PSG, blow up Twitter and turn Barcelona’s Camp Nou into a 100,000-person madhouse. As ESPNFC’s Gabriele Marcotti writes, the stunning comeback was a fine reminder of the sport’s ability to enthrall the masses.

Games to Watch (March 10-13)

DATE/TIME (CT) GAME COMPETITION TV CHANNEL
Fri., Mar. 10, 1:45pm Juventus vs. AC Milan Italian Serie A beIN SPORTS
Sat., Mar. 11, 6:15am Middlesbrough vs. Manchester City English FA Cup FS1
Sat., Mar. 11, 8:30am Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund German Bundesliga FS2
Sat., Mar. 11, 11:30am Arsenal vs. Lincoln City English FA Cup FS2
Sat., Mar. 11, 3pm New York Red Bulls vs. Colorado Rapids MLS UDN, UniMas
Sat., Mar. 11, 8pm Sporting KC vs. FC Dallas MLS FOX Sports KC, FOX Sports GO
Sun., Mar. 12, 9am Tottenham vs. Millwall English FA Cup FS1
Sun., Mar. 12, 4pm Minnesota United FC vs. Atlanta United FC MLS ESPN2
Sun., Mar. 12, 6pm LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers MLS FS1
Mon., Mar. 13, 2:45pm Chelsea vs. Manchester United English FA Cup FS1
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