Starting XI - July 23, 2018
Olivia Brestal

Starting XI: The Best in the World

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. Back in Action

Following a restful bye week, Sporting KC (9-5-6, 33 points) returns to the field Saturday when the club hosts Western Conference leaders FC Dallas (11-3-6, 39 points) in a pivotal showdown at Children's Mercy Park.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT with three hours of live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CT on FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO. The Western Conference clash will also air live on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish), with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately following the match on 810 WHB.

Tickets for Saturday's game are available via SeatGeek.com, and the first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a free cooling headband courtesy of match sponsor Dairy Farmers of America.

2. The Best in the World

The best women's team on the planet is coming to Kansas City.

Children’s Mercy Park will host the United States Women’s National Team in a 2018 Tournament of Nations doubleheader on Thursday. Ranked No. 1 in the latest FIFA rankings, the U.S. WNT will battle rivals Japan at 6 p.m. CT on the opening matchday of an elite tournament that showcases four of the best women's national teams in the world. The first game of the Children’s Mercy Park double-feature will see Brazil face Australia at 3:15 p.m. CT. Tickets for the doubleheader are on sale through ussoccer.comticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

3. Favorable Results

Sporting KC wasn't in action this weekend, but a handful of results fell their way in Major League Soccer's Western Conference. First-place FC Dallas was only able to manage a 1-1 draw against rivals Houston Dynamo, thus opening a six-point lead on third-place Sporting KC. Second-place LAFC, meanwhile, suffered a 5-1 beatdown at Minnesota Untied FC to stay stuck on 35 points, two ahead of Manager Peter Vermes' men. Elsewhere, the LA Galaxy used a 3-1 win at Philadelphia Union to take fourth place from the Portland Timbers, who were held to a 2-2 home draw with the Montreal Impact.

4. Blockbuster

A young U.S. Men's National Team midfielder has swapped MLS clubs. Kellyn Acosta, 22, was traded from FC Dallas to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for 25-year-old striker Dominique Badji and an international roster spot on Monday. As part of the deal, the two clubs have further agreed to swap first-round picks in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, while Colorado will also acquire FC Dallas’ second-round selection.

Acosta has already collected 17 caps for the U.S. MNT, notably starting in the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup Final alongside Sporting KC duo Matt Besler and Graham Zusi. Badji led Colorado with seven goals this season and has scored 24 times for the Rapids since joining in 2015 as a fourth-round SuperDraft pick.

5. Pulisic Shreds Reds

U.S. Men's National Team star Christian Pulisic sparked Borussia Dortmund's 3-1 preseason victory over Liverpool with a two-goal outing on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The 19-year-old did all of his damage during the second half of Sunday's International Champions Cup matchup, scoring twice and helping set up the third against the UEFA Champions League runners up from last season.

6. The Real MVP

Major League Soccer has announced the finalists for the 2018 MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest presented by Wells Fargo, which recognizes individuals using soccer to make a difference in their community. The Grand Prize winner, voted on by fans, will be recognized on-field during halftime of the 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on August 1, and will receive a $25,000 donation for their selected charity. Sporting KC's representative on the fan voting ballot is Ann Murphy, who has served as a police officer in the Kansas City Police Department for more than a decade.

7. Youngsters Head South

The Sporting KC Academy will be one of eight teams vying for a national title in the U-14 boys division when the 2018 US Youth Soccer National Championships kick off Tuesday at the Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco, Texas. The U-14s, led by head coach Declan Jogi, will play group stage matches on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with hopes of reaching Saturday's semifinals and Sunday's championship.

8. Toyota Tour

From 4-6 p.m. CT on Friday, Sporting KC fans of all ages are welcome to attend the next stop of the 2018 Toyota Tour at Jay Wolfe Toyota (9650 NW Prairie View Rd, Kansas City, MO). Supporters will have photograph opportunities with the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy and club mascot Blue, plus the chance to win a fan appreciation package consisting of a $100 SportingStyle gift card, a signed jersey and four tickets to the Aug. 18 home match against the Portland Timbers. Sporting KC will conduct a ticket giveaway for the Sept. 8 home game versus Orlando City SC.

9. Star Sightings

Sporting KC will host an AT&T Meet 'n' Greet with Ike Opara, Eric Dick, Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton on Sunday at the AT&T Store at Zona Rosa Town Center (8454 NW Prairie View Rd, Kansas City, MO). Opara and Dick will be on-site for photos and autographs from 1-2:30 p.m. CT, followed by Russell and Shelton from 2:30-4 p.m. CT. The event will also feature a Sporting KC futsal court and an enter-to-win sweepstakes consisting of tickets to a future game, a Children's Mercy Park tour and a SportingStyle gift card.

10. Ace Up the Sleeve

Fans can enter the Westlake Ace Hardware Ultimate Sporting KC Matchday Sweepstakes to win an all-inclusive prize package courtesy of Westlake Ace Hardware. The limited-time opportunity will see all participants entered for the chance to win 10 Bud Light Landing tickets to Sporting KC's game against Orlando City SC on Sept. 8, one customized replica jersey, a postgame photo on the pitch, a $250 Westlake gift card and a wide array of tailgating gear.

11. First Fridays

Sporting KC invites all fans to the First Fridays Block Party on Friday, Aug. 3, in the Crossroads Arts District (2020 Baltimore Ave., Kansas City, MO). The free event will run from 5-9 p.m. CT, featuring yard games, free beer and a food and beverage pairing. The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a free Sporting KC sampling glass.

The food and beverage pairing will take place from 5-7 p.m. CT, while beverage stations and yard games will be open for the duration of the event. In addition, SportingStyle merchandise will be available for purchase. Click here to RSVP to the summer celebration, which comes on the heels of a Sporting KC First Fridays party last August that broke the record for world's longest flip cup competition.

Games to Watch (July 23-26, 2018)

DAY / TIME (CT) GAME COMPETITION CHANNEL
Wednesday, 6pm Juventus vs. Bayern Munich International Champions Cup (Friendly) ESPNU
Wednesday, 7pm Borussia Dortmund vs. Benfica International Champions Cup (Friendly) ESPNNEWS
Wednesday, 7pm Manchester City vs. Liverpool International Champions Cup (Friendly) ESPN2
Wednesday, 9pm Roma vs. Tottenham International Champions Cup (Friendly) ESPN2
Wednesday, 10pm AC Milan vs. Manchester United International Champions Cup (Friendly) ESPN
Thursday, 6:30am Atletico Madrid vs. Arsenal International Champions Cup (Friendly) ESPNU
Thursday, 6pm U.S. WNT vs. Japan Tournament of Nations FS1
Thursday, 7pm Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC MLS ESPN
Thursday, 9:30pm LAFC vs. LA Galaxy MLS ESPN
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