Starting XI, presented by StorageMart, 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. Fight for First
It all comes down to Decision Day. With a top-four finish and a home playoff game already secured, Western Conference leaders Sporting KC (17-8-8, 59 points) will play for the No. 1 playoff seed at 3:30 p.m. CT Sunday when second-place Los Angeles Football Club (16-8-9, 57 points) visits Children's Mercy Park in a monumental regular season finale. The marquee matchup, one of 11 MLS games kicking off concurrently on Decision Day, will be televised live on FS1 and FOX Deportes with live radio coverage on SiriusXM FC, ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).
Sunday's mouthwatering tilt features the top two teams in the West and two of the best attacks in MLS. A limited number of tickets for the game are available via SeatGeek.com as Sporting KC hosts its Fan Appreciation Match, featuring thousands of prize giveaways exclusively through the Sporting KC Uphoria app.
2. Sunday Scenarios
Sporting KC can still finish anywhere between first and fourth place in the West. The top two seeds will earn a Knockout Round bye to the two-legged conference semifinals, playing away in the first leg and hosting the second leg. The No. 3 and 4 seeds will host a single-elimination Knockout Round match on either Oct. 31 or Nov. 1. With that in mind, here are Sporting KC’s seeding scenarios going into the final game of the 2018 regular season.
Sporting KC can clinch a No. 1 seed if…
- Sporting KC beats LAFC, OR
- Sporting KC ties LAFC, AND
FC Dallas fails to beat Colorado by 15 or more goals
Sporting KC can clinch a No. 2 seed if…
- Sporting KC ties LAFC, AND
FC Dallas beats Colorado by 15 or more goals, OR
- Sporting KC loses to LAFC, AND
Colorado beats or ties FC Dallas, AND
San Jose beats or ties Seattle
3. Decision Day Headliner
Sunday's monumental showdown between Sporting Kansas City and LAFC at Children's Mercy Park will be the headline match on FS1 as Decision Day, presented by AT&T, draws the 2018 MLS regular season to a thrilling conclusion.
Eleven MLS matches will kick off simultaneously at 3:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, and none have more on the line than the game that features the top two teams in the Western Conference battling for the No. 1 playoff seed.
4. All For the Fans
Sporting KC will host its Fan Appreciation Match this Sunday, giving a nod to the best supporters in Major League Soccer. Those who attend the highly anticipated regular season finale are guaranteed to win a prize exclusively through the Sporting KC Uphoria mobile app, available for free download on the App Store and Google Play. Among the prizes up for grabs:
- A pair of 2019 Sporting KC season tickets
- Player-autographed merchandise
- VIP experiences
- 50 percent off authentic jerseys
- Discount offers at SportingStyle and concessions
5. Rising Star
Sporting KC defender Jaylin Lindsey has been named to the United States Under-20 Men’s National Team for the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship, which takes place from Nov. 1-21 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Lindsey is part of a 20-player roster assembled by head coach Tab Ramos as the U.S. U-20s look to defend their confederation title, having won the 2017 edition in Costa Rica. The 2018 competition is Concacaf’s largest U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament ever, featuring 34 member nations. The top four finishers will qualify for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, set for May 23 to June 15 in Poland.
6. Rangers Roll Onward
Led by head coach Paulo Nagamura, the Swope Park Rangers will continue their pursuit of a third straight Western Conference title when they travel to face Phoenix Rising FC on Friday night. Kickoff at Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex is set for 9:30 p.m. CT with a live stream on ESPN+.
No. 7-seed SPR advanced to the Western Conference semifinals of the 2018 USL Cup Playoffs with a come-from-behind 2-1 road win over No. 2-seed Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday. After falling behind early, the visitors rallied with a pair of goals late in the first half from Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal and Hadji Barry.
7. Youngsters Shine
The Sporting KC Academy’s younger age groups took the spotlight last weekend as the U-13s and U-14s squared off against premier competition at the 2018 Central Regional Showcase at Waukegan Sports Park in Waukegan, Illinois. Both teams emerged with 3-1 records in a round-robin that featured some of the best Academy sides in the country.
8. The Playoffs are Back
The Audi MLS Cup Playoffs are returning to Children’s Mercy Park for the first time since Dec. 7, 2013, when Sporting KC hoisted the MLS Cup title. Tickets for the club’s first home playoff match at Children’s Mercy Park are also on sale at SeatGeek.com. Season Ticket Members will automatically retain their seats for all playoff matches, excluding the MLS Cup final, and can contact their Client Services Executive for questions and more information.
9. Beat the Lines
SportingStyle has reopened matchday pre-orders for pickup at Sunday's game between Sporting KC and LAFC. Fans can shop a limited assortment of items between now and Sunday, including the Sporting KC monogram scarf of the match. The SportingStyle Pop-In Store is also open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Budweiser Brew House at Children's Mercy Park. Follow @SportingStyle on Twitter and Instagram for sneak peeks of all the latest club apparel.
10. Game Night
From 6-8 p.m. CT on Friday, Sporting KC Homegrown duo Gianluca Busio and Daniel Salloi will play fans in the newly released EA SPORTS FIFA 19 video game on Twitch. To participate, players can add eSportingKC on the PlayStation Network, send eSportingKC an invite to a FIFA 19 match and watch the stream until they are selected to play.
11. Trick Up the Sleeve
MLS jerseys will have a new look beginning with the 2020 season. The league announced on Wednesday the approval of sponsored sleeve patch sales on team uniforms. In addition to the sponsor on the front of a jersey, clubs will be able to place a second sponsor on the right sleeve of the game jersey.
Games to Watch (Oct. 26-28, 2018)
|Friday, 9:30pm||Rangers at Phoenix Rising FC||USL Cup Playoffs||ESPN+|
|Saturday, 8:30am||Borussia Dortmund vs. Hertha Berlin||German Bundesliga||FOX Soccer Plus|
|Saturday, 8:30am||Mainz vs. Bayern Munich||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 9am||Liverpool vs. Cardiff City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Saturday, 11:30am||Leicester City vs. West Ham||English Premier League||NBC|
|Saturday, 1:45pm||Atletico Madrid vs. Real Sociedad||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Sunday, 8:30am||Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 10:15am||Barcelona vs. Real Madrid||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Sunday, 12pm||Werder Bremen vs. Bayer Leverkusen||German Bundesliga||FS1|
|Sunday, 3:30pm||Sporting KC vs. LAFC||MLS||FS1|