Starting XI - Sept. 7, 2017

Starting XI: In the Heart of it All

Starting XI, presented by Ford, is a biweekly series on 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. Bitten in the Big Apple

Sporting KC suffered a late 1-0 defeat to New York City FC on Wednesday at rainy Yankee Stadium. Jack Harrison scored the decisive goal in the 84th minute, extending NYCFC’s home unbeaten run to 10 matches at the expense of a Sporting KC side that was playing its first match in 18 days.

The result gave the Blues (15-7-5, 50 points) their first win in three tries against Manager Peter Vermes’ men, who remain third in the Western Conference standings (10-6-10, 40 points) heading into Sunday’s match at Columbus Crew SC, slated for noon CT on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. Despite the setback, Sporting KC remains on course to accomplish multiple objectives the club set forth at the start of the season.

2. In the Heart of It All

Kansas City representatives including Sporting Club CEO Robb Heineman and Sporting KC President Jake Reid submitted an official bid Tuesday to serve as a host site for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Arrowhead Stadium is Kansas City's designated venue to hold matches. Heineman and Reid presented the proposal in person Tuesday at Major League Soccer's headquarters in New York City with a booklet titled “Unite,” which conveys an overarching theme that Kansas City is "In the Heart of It All." Click here to visit's photo gallery of the 2026 FIFA World Cup proposal.

 The U.S., Canada and Mexico have submitted a unified bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, with the winning bid to be announced by FIFA next summer. The North American bid is considered a heavy favorite against Morocco, the only other bidding nation. The Unified Bid Committee has started the process of selecting potential sites for matches, with Kansas City tabbed as one of 34 candidates across the U.S.

3. Gerso’s Journey

The remarkable upbringing of Sporting KC winger Gerso has long been a story untold. Said story was finally unearthed by the Kansas City Star's Sam McDowell, who shared Gerso's stunning tale in a feature that highlights the player's unlikely path to Sporting KC. Born in war-torn Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, Sporting KC's Gerso Fernandes was raised in two different orphanages in Portugal before blossoming on the soccer field.

4. Precious Point

The U.S. Men's National Team came from behind to salvage a precious 1-1 draw with Honduras on Tuesday at Estadio Olimpico in San Pedro Sula. Romell Quioto fired the hosts ahead after 27 minutes, but second-half substitute Bobby Wood bundled home the equalizer in the 85th minute as the U.S. took hold of fourth place in CONCACAF's Hexagonal standings. A loss would have dropped the Yanks to fifth. 

Sporting KC defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi earned starts on Tuesday for their 45th and 55th caps, respectively. Zusi made way for Geoff Cameron in the 63rd minute, while Besler went the full 90 minutes. The Sporting KC captain also played a role in the Americans' goal, keeping the ball alive on the left byline before a deft touch from Jordan Morris allowed Wood to finish from close range.

Upon completion of qualifying on Oct. 10, the top three finishers in the Hexagonal will advance to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The fourth-place finisher will progress to a two-legged World Cup playoff in November against either Australia or Syria.

Mexico (Q) 18 5 0 3 11 3 +8
Costa Rica 15 4 1 3 12 5 +7
Panama 10 2 2 4 7 5 +2
United States 9 2 3 3 12 11 +1
Honduras 9 2 3 3 9 16 -7
Trinidad and Tobago 3 1 7 0 4 15 -11

5. Musa Makes the Playoffs

Sporting KC midfielder James Musa collected his third cap for New Zealand in a 13-minute substitute appearance on Tuesday as the All Whites drew Solomon Islands 2-2 in the second leg of the OFC Playoff Final at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

New Zealand cruised to a 8-3 aggregate victory, having won the first leg 6-1 on Friday, to seal a spot in a two-legged World Cup playoff in November. The All Whites will face the fifth-place finisher from the South American qualifying region in a home-and-away series, meeting on Nov. 6 and 14 to decide which team will advance to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia next summer.

6. Soony Snatches Draw

Sporting KC forward Soony Saad helped Lebanon keep a commanding lead in Group B of 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifying as the Cedars rescued a late 2-2 draw at North Korea on Tuesday.

Saad entered the action as an 88th-minute substitute with Lebanon trailing 2-1 at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang, collecting his ninth cap at the senior international level. The visitors pressed for an equalizer in the dying embers and were rewarded in the 94th minute when captain Hassan Maatouk's free kick flashed untouched through a crowded penalty area and nestled into the corner of the net.

7. The Soccer Capital

The Soccer Capital of America continues to live up to its name. After researching and comparing 293 cities across the country, WalletHub named Kansas City as the best city in the United States to be a soccer fan. Orlando, New York City, Los Angeles and Portland rounded out the top five. Each of the top 15 cities in the rankings were home to an MLS club.

WalletHub's analysts used a precise formula to generate rankings that were released on Wednesday, comparing cities across six "divisions" of soccer: MLS, NWSL, NASL, USL, men's college soccer and women's college soccer. The six divisions were evaluated across 63 weighted metrics, among them being performance level, fan engagement, attendance and season ticket prices.

8. Moloto Cocktail

Swope Park Rangers midfielder Lebo Moloto earned USL Team of the Week honors in Week 24 after scoring a brace in SPR’s 2-0 triumph against OKC Energy FC on Saturday night at Children's Mercy Victory Field inside Swope Soccer Village. Currently occupying fourth place in the Western Conference, the Rangers will now hit the road for a meeting with 11th-place Orange County SC (7-8-8, 29 points) inside Champions Soccer Stadium at Orange County Great Park. The match will kick off at 9 p.m. CT Saturday, streaming live on

9. Going Camping

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach John Hackworth has selected Sporting KC Academy defender Jaylin Lindsey to his 25-man roster for a training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida from Sept. 5-14.

The camp will serve as another preparation opportunity ahead of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, marking the third time Lindsey has joined the U-17 MNT for a domestic camp since the squad qualified for the World Cup at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship. Seventeen of the 25 players are returning from last month’s International Youth Tournament of Vaclav Jezek, where Lindsey helped the U.S. finished third. The FIFA U-17 World Cup will run from Oct. 6-28 in India.

10. Big Men on Campus

On a weekly basis, showcases Sporting KC Academy players who have featured for their respective schools at the collegiate level. Among the current pool of college competitors, the previous week of action saw true freshman Joe Corner star for Gonzaga University with a goal and an assist.

11. Title Chasers

All remaining tickets for the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final between Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls are on sale to the general public at Serving as U.S. Soccer's National Championship, the Open Cup Final is slated for 8 p.m. CT on Sept. 20 at world-class Children's Mercy Park. The highly anticipated showdown will be televised nationally on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.

Games to Watch (Sept. 8-10)

Friday, 1:45pm Metz vs. PSG French Ligue 1 beIN SPORTS
Saturday, 6am Real Madrid vs. Levante Spanish La Liga beIN SPORTS
Saturday, 6:30am Manchester City vs. Liverpool English Premier League NBCSN
Saturday, 8:30am Freiburg vs. Borussia Dortmund German Bundesliga FS1
Saturday, 9am Everton vs. Tottenham English Premier League CNBC
Saturday, 9:15am Valencia vs. Atletico Madrid Spanish La Liga beIN SPORTS
Saturday, 11:30am Stoke City vs. Manchester United English Premier League NBC
Saturday, 1:45pm Barcelona vs. Espanyol Spanish La Liga beIN SPORTS
Saturday, 2:55pm Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls MLS Facebook Live, UniMas, UDN
Saturday, 9pm Swope Park Rangers at Orange County SC USL
Sunday, 8am Lazio vs. AC Milan Italian Serie A beIN SPORTS
Sunday, 12pm Sporting KC at Columbus Crew SC MLS ESPN, ESPN Deportes
Sunday 2:30pm Atlanta United FC vs. FC Dallas MLS FS1, FOX Deportes
Sunday, 8pm Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy MLS FS1, FOX Deportes