Starting XI - Nov. 23, 2017

Starting XI: Giving Thanks

Starting XI, presented by Ford, 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. Terrific Twosome

Sporting KC Academy forward Gianluca Busio and defender Mitch Eise were named to the United States U-17 Men’s National Team on Wednesday for the 2017 Men’s Nike International Friendlies in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, running from Nov. 29 – Dec. 3.

Busio and Eise join a 24-player roster assembled by U.S. U-17 head coach John Hackworth for the 2017 edition of the prestigious youth tournament. The USA will open the competition next Wednesday, Nov. 29 against England (6 p.m. CT) before facing Netherlands on Dec. 1 (6 p.m. CT) and Brazil on Dec. 3 (4 p.m. CT). All tournament games will take place at Premier Sports Campus and stream live on ussoccer.com.

2. Giving Thanks

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it's safe to say Sporting KC fans are thankful for Tim Melia. In a tremendous third season with Sporting KC, Melia earned Allstate MLS Defender of the Year honors last week after helping the club to a historically dominant defensive record in 2017. In the newest episode of Drive Time presented by Toyota, Sporting KC's man between the posts joins Nate Bukaty for a refreshing discussion about life away from the pitch.

3. Scoreless in Columbus

Playing without the suspended Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC successfully stifled upstart Columbus Crew SC in a scoreless first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship on Tuesday at MAPFRE Stadium. The Supporters' Shield and Canadian Championship winners were unable to muster a single shot on goal without their star forwards, but Columbus mustered just three attempts on target themselves in what proved to be a cagey encounter. As a result, the decisive second leg leaves all to play for when the Reds host Crew SC next Tuesday, Nov. 29 at BMO Field (6:30 p.m. CT, FS1).

4. Seattle Strolls

The defending MLS Cup champions took a major step in their quest to repeat on Tuesday when Seattle Sounders FC defeated the Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship at BBVA Compass Stadium. Gustav Svensson nodded Seattle ahead after just 11 minutes, and Houston's troubles were compounded near the half-hour mark when Jalil Anibaba received a straight red card. That allowed the visitors to double their lead just before halftime on a goal from former Houston frontman Will Bruin. The result puts the Sounders in cruise control ahead of the second leg in Seattle, which takes place next Thursday, Nov. 30 at CenturyLink Field (9:30 p.m. CT, ESPN).

5. Black Friday Sale

All Sporting KC supporters are invited to the highly anticipated Kitman Sale this Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the SportingStyle Pop-In Store inside Children's Mercy Park. A wide variety of authentic, autographed and game-worn merchandise will be available for purchase, including player jerseys, cleats and game balls that were used throughout the 2017 season. In addition, full-priced merchandise will be marked at 25 percent off with up to 50 percent off sale items.

6. The Cream of CONCACAF

CONCACAF announced on Wednesday the nominations for the fifth annual CONCACAF Awards, featuring strong representation from MLS and Americans abroad. The likes of Jozy Altidore, Andre Blake, Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic are up for Male Player of the Year, while a slew of MLS players are in contention for Best XI honors. Voting for the 2017 CONCACAF Awards will be split evenly into thirds between the media vote, member associations' national team head coaches and captains' vote, and the fan vote. Voting is open until 10:59 p.m. CT on Dec. 13. Fans can also vote via social media, with details available on CONCACAF's awards website.

7. Champions League Lowdown

With five of six matchdays in the books, the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League group stage picture is beginning to crystalize. Several of the usual suspects have already punched their tickets to next year's knockout rounds — namely Paris-St. Germain, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester City, Tottenham and Real Madrid. Others still have a little work to do — including the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Juventus — while Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Monaco and Borussia Dortmund are facing the disappointment of an early exit.

8. Team of the Year

The 50-man shortlist for the UEFA Team of the Year was unveiled on Wednesday, dominated by Spanish giant Real Madrid's 11 nominees. No other club has more players on the shortlist than the two-time reigning Champions League winners, while Italian side Juventus boast the second most with seven. Of note, just two English players were included — Tottenham duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli — while Paris-St. Germain (five), Manchester United (four) and FC Barcelona (four) are also strongly represented. The final XI, selected by fans through UEFA's website, will be announced on Jan. 11, 2018.

9. Kenwyne Quits

On the same day Atlanta United FC declined his option for the 2018 season, 33-year-old forward Kenwyne Jones announced his retirement from soccer. The longtime Trinidad and Tobago international officially called it quits on his 15-year professional career on Tuesday, having bagged 23 goals for the Soca Warriors in addition to scoring more than 150 times at the club level. The English Premier League veteran played for the likes of Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke City and Cardiff City before joining Atlanta for its inaugural MLS campaign in 2017.

10. Boxing Day Delight

In celebration of a long-standing Boxing Day tradition, Sporting KC, the National World War I Museum and Memorial and The Soccer Lot will host The Truce 3v3 Soccer Tournament on Tuesday, Dec. 26. The fifth annual Truce Tournament will take place on scenic Liberty Hill with early bird pricing available to teams who sign up by Nov. 27. Recreational, Competitive and Beer divisions are available for entry, and all teams are guaranteed three games. Click here to register a team.

11. Fantastic Four

distinct local flavor surrounds the national semifinal matchups of the 2017 NCAA Division II Men’s and Women’s Soccer Championships, to be held Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 at Swope Soccer Village. Kansas City's own Rockhurst University returns to the men's final four for the fourth time in five years, joining Charleston (W. Va.), Cal Poly Pomona and Lynn (Fla.). On the women's side, unbeaten and top-ranked Central Missouri descends on Swope alongside Mercy College (N.Y.), Carson Newman (Tenn.) and UC Colorado Springs.

Both tournaments will culminate with semifinal and championship matches at Children’s Mercy Victory Field inside Swope Soccer Village, hosted by the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association and the Kansas City Sports Commission. For ticket information, visit ncaa.com/tickets.

Games to Watch (Nov. 23-26)

DATE/TIME (CT) GAME COMPETITION CHANNEL
Today, 12pm Cologne vs. Arsenal UEFA Europa League FS1
Today, 2pm AC Milan vs. Austria Wien UEFA Europa League FS2
Friday, 2pm West Ham vs. Leicester City English Premier League NBCSN
Saturday, 8:30am Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke German Bundesliga FS1
Saturday, 9am Manchester United vs. Brighton English Premier League NBCSN
Saturday, 9:15am Real Madrid vs. Malaga Spanish La Liga beIN SPORTS
Saturday, 11:30am Liverpool vs. Chelsea English Premier League NBC
Saturday, 11:30am Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich German Bundesliga FS2
Sunday, 8am Burnley vs. Arsenal English Premier League CNBC
Sunday, 10am Huddersfield vs. Manchester City English Premier League NBCSN
Sunday, 2pm Monaco vs. PSG French Ligue 1 beIN SPORTS