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. Vintage Throwback
Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. It's a day that will forever remain one of the greatest and most unforgettable in Sporting KC history. On the four-year anniversary of the occasion — and just two days prior to MLS Cup 2017 between Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC — we have the perfect #TBT.
Children's Mercy Park offered the picturesque setting on a sunny but frigid afternoon as Sporting KC hosted Real Salt Lake in MLS Cup 2013, a match that shivered with drama for 120 minutes — and then some. Click here to relive the day as Sporting KC lifted the title in front of a record crowd.
2. Studs in Studio
A Sporting KC duo is visiting the Major League Soccer studios in New York this week ahead of MLS Cup 2017, contested between Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC at 3 p.m. CT Saturday on ESPN and UniMas. Tim Melia and Ike Opara, who last month were named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and MLS Defender of the Year, respectively, will join hosts Andrew Wiebe and Matt Doyle for a series of MLS Cup Central shows that will stream live on MLSsoccer.com. Melia appeared last night and will do so again tonight, while Opara will be a guest on Friday and Saturday. Click here for the full MLS Cup Central programming schedule.
3. Scarves Up
‘Tis the season for terrific holiday deals, and there is no better time to stock up on winter gear or pick out gifts for friends and family. On Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9, all Sporting KC fans can visit the SportingStyle Pop-In Store at Children’s Mercy Park for buy-one, get-one free scarves. The scarf sale will be in effect Friday and Saturday during normal business hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT.
4. Back to the Desert
Sporting KC announced Tuesday that the club will compete in the 2018 Mobile Mini Sun Cup, the largest preseason event in MLS history. Manager Peter Vermes’ men will join USL club Phoenix Rising FC and 11 other MLS teams for the tournament in Scottsdale and Tucson during the month of February. The Mobile Mini Sun Cup highlights the second leg of Sporting KC’s 2018 preseason presented by Children's Mercy, which runs from Feb. 9-25.
Sporting KC will face Phoenix Rising FC in a Mobile Mini Sun Cup showdown on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 4 p.m. CT. Additional tournament dates, matchups and kickoff times will be confirmed in the near future.
5. Selbol in the Semis
Swope Park Rangers forward Nansel Selbol has reached the semifinal stage in USL Fans' Choice Goal of the Year voting. His brilliant strike in a 2-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC 2 on July 20 is now up against FC Cincinnati's Andrew Wiedeman for a spot in the final round of voting. Fans can cast their semifinal votes through Saturday.
6. The Wright Way Up
Sporting KC Academy product Zach Wright guided North Carolina to a 2-1 win over Fordham on Saturday, vaulting the Tar Heels into the NCAA Men’s College Cup for the second consecutive year. Wright opened the scoring in the 61st minute and tallied the game-winning assist in the 80th minute as North Carolina knocked off a Fordham side led by fellow Sporting KC Academy product Matthew Lewis.
Wright and the Tar Heels will now face Indiana 7:45 p.m. CT Friday in the national semifinals at Talen Energy Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Union. The match will broadcast live on ESPNU, and the winner will advance to the national championship against Akron or Stanford on Sunday.
7. One Cup to Rule Them All
And then there were two. Seattle Sounders FC will visit Toronto FC at BMO Field in MLS Cup 2017, serving as an exact rematch of last year’s championship game. Saturday's contest is slated for 3 p.m. CT on ESPN and UniMas as Seattle aims to repeat, having defeated the Reds on penalties last December, while Toronto FC looks to complete the first treble in MLS history.
8. Sales Pitch
The four finalists competing for the next two MLS expansion slots — Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento — delivered formal presentations to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league's Expansion Committee at MLS headquarters in New York City on Wednesday. The four cities are vying for two expansion slots, which are expected to be awarded before the end of 2017.
9. Gulati Stands Down
Sunil Gulati, the longtime president of U.S. Soccer, confirmed this week that he will not run for re-election. The announcement means Gulati will end his 12-year spell as the leader of American soccer’s governing body. The election for new U.S. Soccer President will take place in February in Orlando, and a number of individuals have already declared themselves as candidates for the role.
10. Sarachan’s Camp
U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that Dave Sarachan will remain interim manager for the U.S. Men’s National Team during its annual January training camp when the side convenes on Jan. 10 in Carson, California. Sarachan will be at the helm for the U.S. MNT’s friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Jan. 28.
11. From Pitch to Gridiron
The 2017 NCAA Division II Football Championship will take place at world-class Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday, Dec. 16, marking the fourth straight year the stadium will host the event. The four national semifinalists looking to punch their ticket to Kansas City include top-ranked Indiana (Pa.), West Florida, Texas A&M-Commerce and Harding (Ark.). Both semifinal matchups are slated for Saturday, pitting Indiana vs. West Florida and Texas A&M-Commerce vs. Harding. The winners will meet seven days later Children's Mercy Park, and tickets for the championship game are now on sale via SeatGeek.com.
Games to Watch (Dec. 8-10)
|DAY / TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||CHANNEL|
|Friday, 5pm||Akron vs. Stanford||NCAA Men's College Cup||ESPNU|
|Friday, 7:45pm||Indiana vs. North Carolina||NCAA Men's College Cup||ESPNU|
|Saturday, 6:30am||West Ham vs. Chelsea||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Saturday, 8:30am||Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Bayern Munich||German Bundesliga||FS1|
|Saturday, 8:30am||Borussia Dortmund vs. Werder Bremen||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 9am||Tottenham vs. Stoke City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Saturday, 9:15am||Real Madrid vs. Sevilla||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Saturday, 1:45pm||Juventus vs. Inter Milan||Italian Serie A||beIN SPORTS|
|Saturday, 3pm||Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC||MLS Cup 2017||ESPN & UniMas|
|Sunday, 6am||Southampton vs. Arsenal||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 8:15am||Liverpool vs. Everton||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 10:30am||Manchester United vs. Manchester City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 12pm||Division I National Championship||NCAA Men's College Cup||ESPNU|
|Sunday, 1:45pm||Villarreal vs. Barcelona||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|