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. A Year to Remember
Sporting Kansas City’s 2018 campaign delivered thrills from beginning to end, packing entertainment, emotion and drama on a weekly basis as Manager Peter Vermes’ side ascended to the top of the Western Conference table and brought the MLS Cup Playoffs back to Children’s Mercy Park.
In a year chalk full of stunning goals, wild wins and momentous developments off the pitch, assembling the top 12 moments of 2018 was no easy task. Nevertheless, SportingKC.com has taken its best shot at counting down the dozen moments of 2018 that stood out above the rest. The countdown will run from Dec. 20-31, beginning with No. 12 today and culminating with the No. 1 moment of 2018 on New Year’s Eve.
2. Raising the Curtains
Sporting KC will kick off the 2019 MLS season with a visit to Los Angeles Football Club on Sunday, March 3, Major League Soccer announced today. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT at Banc of California Stadium as two of the top three Western Conference teams from 2018 square off in Week 1. The following Sunday, March 10, Sporting KC will host Philadelphia Union at 2 p.m. CT in the club’s first MLS home match at Children’s Mercy Park.
Tickets for Sporting KC’s 2019 MLS home opener will go on sale to the general public Friday at 10 a.m. CT on SeatGeek.com. Sporting KC Season Ticket Members will have access to an exclusive pre-sale for the match beginning today at noon CT and can contact their Client Services Executive for more information. Single-game tickets for the first half of Sporting KC’s 2019 home schedule will go on sale in January.
3. Ready for February
Sporting KC will open their 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League campaign on Thursday, Feb. 21, at Children’s Mercy Park, facing Mexican side Deportivo Toluca FC at 7 p.m. CT in Leg 1 of the Round of 16. After hosting Toluca in the first leg, Sporting KC will travel to Estadio Nemesio Diez in Mexico for the decisive second leg at 9 p.m. CT on Thursday, Feb. 28.
Tickets for Sporting KC’s highly anticipated Champions League home game on Feb. 21 are now on sale to the general public at SeatGeek.com.
4. Rowe Your Boat
Sporting KC announced Tuesday that the club has acquired midfielder Kelyn Rowe, $100,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and $200,000 in General Allocation Money from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for forward Diego Rubio.
Rowe has started 167 of 214 appearances in MLS action (including postseason) since being selected as the third overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft by the Revolution, recording 30 goals and 42 assists over the past seven seasons.
5. Barath Onboard
Sporting KC has signed Hungarian international defender Botond Barath, the club announced Tuesday. Barath, 26, has signed a two-year MLS contract through 2020 with an option for 2021. He will occupy an international slot and be added to Sporting KC’s roster on Jan. 1 pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 visa.
Born and raised in Budapest, Hungary, Barath has spent the entirety of his professional career with hometown club Budapest Honved FC, where he has made 213 first-team appearances in all competitions since 2009. The center back helped Honved to the 2016-17 Hungarian first-division title and earned his first of three caps for the Hungary Men’s National Team in October.
6. Rangers Slate is Set
The United Soccer League announced Wednesday the Swope Park Rangers’ full 34-game schedule for the 2019 USL Championship season, as well as an expanded format for the 2019 USL Cup Playoffs. SPR joins the Eastern Conference in 2019 and will play each team in the East once at home and once on the road over the course of a 33-week regular season beginning March 9 and ending Oct. 19.
Tickets for Rangers home games at Children’s Mercy Park will be available to purchase at SeatGeek.com and USL Championship matches will again be shown live on ESPN+ next year. SPR home dates are tentative and subject to change pending the release of Sporting KC’s schedule from MLS due to potential conflicts.
7. Kuz Cruise
The 2018 USL campaign featured a whopping 1,655 goals, and arguably none were better than Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal’s stunning free kick in the Swope Park Rangers’ 2-1 win over Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Aug. 29 at Children’s Mercy Park.
Voting for the 2018 USL Fans’ Choice Goal of the Year has reached the final round, with Kuzain's belter up against a goal from San Antonio FC's Alex Bruce. Fans can click here to cast their vote for Kuzain until Friday at 11 a.m. CT.
8. Save at SportingStyle
'Tis the season for great holiday offers from SportingStyle. This Friday and Saturday, Dec. 21-22, fans can visit the SportingStyle Pop-In Store from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT and get 20 percent off all full-priced merchandise while supplies last. It's the perfect way to to knock out last-minute holiday shopping for friends, family members and fellow Sporting KC fanatics.
The SportingStyle Pop-In Store is located inside the Budweiser Brew House at Children's Mercy Park. Parking is available on Village West Parkway just outside the Budweiser Brew House entrance and in the Red Lot (click here for directions).
9. Berhalter's Squad
The U.S. Men's National Team announced its first roster under new head coach Gregg Berhalter on Thursday, beginning a new era by calling an all-MLS squad for the annual January camp in California. The group of 27 players will report to the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center on Jan. 6, with one additional player to be added prior to the start of camp.
10. Down in Austin
A deal has been reached for a new soccer stadium in the city of Austin, Texas, where new MLS team Austin FC will begin play in the near future. Precourt Sports Ventures, LLC and the City of Austin announced on Wednesday a partnership has been finalized. As part of that deal, a privately-funded $225 million soccer park and stadium will be built at McKalla Place. Groundbreaking is scheduled to begin next year, with the 20,000-seat stadium projected to be ready in the spring of 2021.
11. Most Responsible
A new report comparing the various community responsibilities among global soccer leagues has concluded that Major League Soccer is the world's most responsible league. According to the annual ResponsiBALL report from SchweryCade, a Swiss-based social entrepreneurial firm, MLS ranked highest across the board in the three pillars used in consideration: Good governance, community outreach and awareness, and environmental considerations.
The ranking means last year's No. 1 league, the Danish SuperLiga, moved to No. 2, and the English Premier League came in at No. 3.
Games to Watch (Dec. 21-23, 2018)
|Friday, 1:30pm||Borussia Dortmund vs. Borussia Monchengladbach||German Bundesliga||FS1|
|Friday, 2pm||Wolverhampton vs. Liverpool||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Saturday, 6:30am||Arsenal vs. Burnley||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Saturday, 9am||Chelsea vs. Leicester City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Saturday, 10:30am||Real Madrid vs. Al Ain||FIFA Club World Cup Final||FS1|
|Saturday, 11:30am||Cardiff City vs. Manchester United||English Premier League||NBC|
|Saturday, 11:30am||Barcelona vs. Celta Vigo||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Saturday, 1:30pm||Juventus vs. Roma||Italian Serie A||ESPN+|
|Saturday, 2pm||PSG vs. Nantes||French Ligue 1||beIN SPORTS|
|Sunday, 10am||Everton vs. Tottenham||English Premier League||NBCSN|