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. Going to Kansas City
After battling to a 1-1 draw in last weekend’s first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake have all to play for in the decisive second leg this Sunday at Children's Mercy Park. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. CT with national television coverage on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, while local radio broadcasts will air on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish).
Sunday will mark Sporting KC's first home playoff game at Children's Mercy Park since Manager Peter Vermes' side defeat Real Salt Lake on penalties in the 2013 MLS Cup. A limited number of tickets for the highly anticipated showdown, including standing-room only tickets, are available at SeatGeek.com.
2. Seal the Deal
Sporting KC side can advance to the Western Conference Championship of the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with either a win or a scoreless draw on Sunday. A victory would see Manager Peter Vermes' side advance on aggregate, while a 0-0 tie would give Sporting KC the away goals tiebreaker. Conversely, RSL can advance with a win or a draw involving four or more total goals (2-2, 3-3, etc.) in which they claim the away goals tiebreaker.
3. Fab Five
Ready for a stroll down memory lane? Ahead of Sunday's showdown at Children's Mercy Park, SportingKC.com has revisited five of Sporting KC's best home playoff matches of all-time. The give games stretch from 1996-2013, serving up some of the brightest moments in club history.
4. Great Scot
Sporting KC forward Johnny Russell has been selected to the Scotland Men’s National Team ahead of two pivotal matches in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League, the Scottish Football Association announced Tuesday. Russell and Scotland will conclude their UEFA Nations League group stage campaign during this month’s FIFA international window, visiting Albania on Nov. 17 at Loro Borici Stadium in Shkoder before hosting Israel on Nov. 20 at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Both matches will kick off at 1:45 p.m. CT and stream live on ESPN+.
5. Others in Action
Sunday's contest at Children's Mercy Park is one of four nationally televised MLS matches that will send aggregate winners to the two-legged conference championships later this month. Three of which will take place Sunday, with Kansas City's matinee followed by two games in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta United FC owns a 1-0 aggregate lead over New York City FC heading into the second leg at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, kicking off at 4:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. In the 6:30 p.m. CT nightcap on FS1, Supporters' Shield champion New York Red Bulls will look to overturn a 1-0 deficit against Columbus Crew SC at Red Bull Arena.
The first team to punch its ticket to the Western Conference Championship will be either Seattle Sounders FC or the Portland Timbers. The fierce rivals meet in leg two at 9:30 p.m. CT Thursday in Seattle, with Portland holding a 2-1 aggregate advantage. That game will air live on FS1.
6. Play It Back
A new episode of the Sporting KC Show Podcast aired Wednesday night as hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine were joined by Sporting Kansas City duo Roger Espinoza and Seth Sinovic to preview the decisive second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals against rivals Real Salt Lake at Children's Mercy Park.
7. Sporting Duty
Voting for AT&T MLS Goal of the Year and MLS Save of the Year is well underway, and Sporting KC has representatives available for selection in both categories. Jimmy Medranda's long-range stunner from the 6-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC is up for Goal of the Year, while Tim Melia's jaw-dropping stop to deny Yordy Reyna in the same game is up for Save of the Year. Both polls will remain open at MLSsoccer.com through Sunday night.
8. Easy Street
Sporting KC defender Jaylin Lindsey started and played 90 minutes on Wednesday as the United States U-20 Men's National Team stayed perfect at the 2018 Concacaf U-20 Championship with a 6-0 win over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as IMG Academy Stadium in Bradenton, Florida.
After starting in a 7-1 victory against Puerto Rico to open the tournament last Thursday, Lindsey returned to Sporting KC and was an unused substitute in Sunday's 1-1 conference semifinal draw at Real Salt Lake. The 18-year-old Academy product then returned to the U.S. U-20s for Wednesday's contest versus Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, having missed group stage wins over U.S. Virgin Islands on Nov 3 and Trinidad and Tobago on Nov. 5.
9. Diaper Dandy
Sporting KC midfielder Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal is a finalist for USL's 2018 Young Player of the Year award, the United Soccer League announced on Tuesday. Kuzain, 20, is one of four finalists along with Efrain Alvarez (LA), Andrew Carleton (ATL) and Hassan Ndam (NY) for the award, which recognizes the top player from the 2018 USL season who was born on or after Jan. 1, 1996. The recipient of the award will be announced on Tuesday.
10. Holiday Presale
All Sporting KC supporters are invited to the SportingStyle Friends + Family Holiday Presale on Saturday at the Budweiser Brew House inside Children's Mercy Park. The biggest SportingStyle sale of 2018 will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT, with an incredible variety of discounted Sporting KC merchandise available for purchase. All fans planning to attend Saturday's event can click here to RSVP.
11. Day of Giving
All day Friday, Scooter's Coffee will celebrate the grand opening of its new cafe in Shawnee, Kansas (11002 W 75th St.) with a Day of Giving, donating 100 percent of the location's proceeds to The Victory Project. The donation day is part of a season-long collaboration in which Scooter’s Coffee raises money for The Victory Project and helps raise awareness for the philanthropic program. In conjunction with the Day of Giving, Sporting KC forward Diego Rubio will be at the new Scooter's Coffee location from 3-4:30 p.m. CT Friday to sign autographs and take photos with fans.
Games to Watch (Nov. 8-11, 2018)
|Tonight, 9:30pm||Seattle Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers||Audi MLS Cup Playoffs||FS1|
|Friday, 4:30pm||USA U-20s (Jaylin Lindsey) vs. Suriname||Concacaf U-20 Championship||Concacaf GO|
|Saturday, 11:30am||Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 11:30am||Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham||English Premier League||NBC|
|Sunday, 6am||Liverpool vs. Fulham||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 8:15am||Chelsea vs. Everton||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 9:15am||Barcelona vs. Real Betis||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Sunday, 10:30am||Manchester City vs. Manchester United||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 2pm||Sporting KC vs. Real Salt Lake||Audi MLS Cup Playoffs||ESPN|
|Sunday, 4:30pm||Atlanta United FC vs. New York City FC||Audi MLS Cup Playoffs||ESPN|
|Sunday, 6:30pm||New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC||Audi MLS Cup Playoffs||FS1|