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. Westward Expansion
The 2017 MLS Expansion draft will take place Tuesday at 1 p.m. CT, giving newborn Los Angeles FC the opportunity to add five players to their inaugural 2018 roster. LAFC has 308 players to choose from, as each club announced its list of 11 protected players on Sunday ahead of the draft. Per MLS Expansion Draft rules, LAFC can only claim a single player from any one club.
2. Protected Eleven
Sporting KC announced on Sunday that the club has protected the following 11 players ahead of Tuesday’s MLS Expansion Draft: goalkeeper Tim Melia; defenders Matt Besler, Ike Opara and Graham Zusi; midfielders Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Ilie, Cristian Lobato, Jimmy Medranda and James Musa; and forward Gerso. Gianluca Busio, Kevin Ellis, Erik Palmer-Brown and Daniel Salloi are automatically protected as Homegrown Players.
3. Trade Business
Earlier Sunday morning, Sporting KC announced that the club has acquired forward Kenwyne Jones, goalkeeper Alexander Tambakis and a natural fourth-round pick in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft in a trade with Atlanta United FC. In exchange, Atlanta United FC acquires midfielder Kevin Oliveira, defender Tyler Pasher and Sporting KC’s natural second-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft (No. 36 overall). The transaction took place during Major League Soccer’s half-day trade window, hours before Sporting KC unveiled its protected list ahead of the Expansion Draft.
4. Sunday Swaps
Sporting KC wasn’t the only club active during Sunday’s half-day trade window in MLS. Among the more prominent moves, LAFC picked up FC Dallas defender Walker Zimmerman, Vancouver Whitecaps FC traded for former Sporting KC forward Kei Kamara, and D.C. United acquired Darren Mattocks and Frederic Brillant.
5. Toronto’s Treble
Toronto FC became the first club in MLS history to win the treble on Saturday when the Reds defeated Seattle Sounders FC 2-0 in the 2017 MLS Cup. The hosts received a pair of second-half goals from Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez at raucous BMO Field in Toronto, ending a historically dominant season with their third piece of silverware after hoisting the Canadian Championship and Supporters’ Shield earlier in the year.
6. TAM is of the Essence
MLS announced Friday that the league will provide an increased amount of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to each club over the next two seasons. All 23 MLS teams will continue to receive $1.2 million of TAM per year in 2018 and 2019, also having the option to “pull forward” and immediately use the $1.2 million of TAM designated for 2019.
MLS clubs also will have the flexibility to spend up to an additional $2.8 million of TAM, on a discretionary basis funded by the team, per year in both 2018 and 2019, which will further enhance the quality of play across the league.
7. Free to Roam
On Sunday, MLS unveiled its list of players eligible for free agency. Out-of-contract players and those who had their contract option declined — and who were at least 28 years old during the 2017 season and have at least eight years of MLS service — are eligible for Free Agency. Free Agency officially begins on Tues., Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. CT.
8. Sensational Sel-goal
Swope Park Rangers forward Nansel Selbol’s run in the USL Fans’ Choice Goal of the Year competition just won’t stop. Selbol’s superb strike in a 2-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC 2 in June has reached the final round of voting, where he is up against Colorado Springs’ Kasta Kacher. Voting is open through Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. CT.
9. Gridiron Gang
West Florida and Texas A&M-Commerce will lock horns Saturday in the 2017 NCAA Division II Football Championship, set to kick off at 5 p.m. CT at world-class Children's Mercy Park. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.Tickets for Saturday's national championship are on sale now via SeatGeek.com, marking the fourth straight year that Children's Mercy Park will host the Division II football title game.
10. Manchester is Blue
Manchester City extended its gaping lead atop the English Premier League with a 2-1 win over rivals Manchester United in a gripping derby showdown on Sunday. The result gives the Sky Blues an 11-point advantage over second-place United, putting Pep Guardiola’s men firmly in the driver’s seat to lift the title come May.
11. Heavyweight Draw
The 2017-18 UEFA Champions League knockout stage draw has served up a few tantalizing matchups in the Round of 16, which will commence next February. Two-time defending champions Real Madrid will battle French giants Paris-St. Germain in what is unquestionably the best pick of the ties, while Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona will take on English champions Chelsea. Other marquee matchups will see Manchester United meet Sevilla, Tottenham face Italian champions Juventus, and Liverpool go up against Porto.
Games to Watch (Dec. 12-13)
|DAY / TIME (CT)||GAME||COMPETITION||CHANNEL|
|Tuesday, 11:30am||Wolfsburg vs. Red Bull Leipzig||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Tuesday, 1:30pm||Mainz vs. Borussia Dortmund||German Bundesliga||FS1|
|Tuesday, 2pm||Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, 1:30pm||Bayern Munich vs. Cologne||German Bundesliga||FS1|
|Wednesday, 1:45pm||Swansea City vs. Manchester City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, 2pm||Strasbourg vs PSG||French Coupe de la Ligue||FS2|