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. Back in the Desert
With a brief return to the heartland in the books, Sporting KC has returned to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the second leg of the club’s 2019 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy. The next preparatory step ahead of a marquee Concacaf Champions League showdown with Deportivo Toluca FC is tonight’s friendly against Phoenix Rising FC, slated for a 7 p.m. CT kickoff at Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex in Tempe. Sporting and Phoenix will play two 75-minute scrimmages over the course of the evening with live updates available on Twitter at @SKCmatchday.
2. Welcome, Abdul
Sporting KC announced today that the club has signed 22-year-old defender Abdul Rwatubyaye. Rwatubyaye joins Sporting KC after spending the previous three seasons with Rayon Sports FC of the top-flight Rwanda Premier League. In six years as a professional, the defender has won three Rwanda Premier League titles and played 22 matches for the Rwanda Men’s National Team, including appearances in FIFA World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.
3. Block Party
Sporting KC will celebrate the start of the team's 2019 season with a Block Party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT on the north side of Town Center Plaza in Leawood, Kansas (5000 W. 119th St.) on Saturday, March 2. The family-friendly event will be free and open to the public, featuring a special appearance by a Sporting KC player and Blue the mascot, as well as yard games and music from an on-site DJ. Click here to register.
4. Ready to Launch
With little more than two weeks remaining until the 2019 season officially kicks off, Sporting KC has launched the club's new campaign spot on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Sporting enters the new year with no shortage of momentum, diving into the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League in addition to contesting for the annual U.S. Open Cup, Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup. Manager Peter Vermes' side enjoyed a strong 2018 season, setting a slew of club scoring records in the process, and will look to parlay that experience into greater glory in the months ahead.
5. Play It Back
The 2019 premiere of the Sporting KC Show kicked off with a bang, featuring guest appearances from 2018 Golden Boot winner Daniel Salloi, midfielder newcomer Kelyn Rowe and Manager Peter Vermes. Tuesday's episode saw hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine broadcast live on Sports Radio 810 WHB from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where Sporting KC hosted its Season Kickoff and Kit Launch Party.
6. Segbers Signed
The Swope Park Rangers have added versatile defender Mark Segbers to the squad ahead of the 2019 season, the club announced Wednesday. The 22-year-old was selected in the first round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution and signed with the club last February. Segbers made his MLS debut on Oct. 18, 2018, coming on at halftime of a 4-1 road defeat against Real Salt Lake.
7. Get the Kit
Sporting KC’s new primary jersey is now on sale at MLSstore.com, available for all fans ahead of an exciting 2019 campaign that will see the club juggle the Concacaf Champions League with its pursuit of the Supporters' Shield, MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup.
In addition to visiting MLSstore.com, Sporting fans can shop the team's entire 2019 collection of merchandise at the Sporting Style Pop-In Store, located inside the Budweiser Brew House at Children's Mercy Park. The Pop-In Store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT. Supporters can also place their orders by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 913-912-7563.
8. Top Destination
Children's Mercy Park, the world-class home of Sporting KC, was recognized on Wednesday at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka as one of the most popular tourist destinations across the Sunflower State in 2018. Arrivalist, a travel technology company, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism announced Children's Mercy Park among the Top 11 most visited attractions for visitors traveling more than 50 miles during "Destination Statehouse," an annual event hosted by the Travel Industry Association of Kansas.
9. Prized Pinnacle
Pinnacle, the $75 million training center opened by Sporting KC last year, is among 25 construction projects completed in 2018 that has been selected by the Kansas City Business Journal’s judging panel to receive a prestigious Capstone Award, honoring the best new developments in the metropolitan area. The Kansas City Business Journal announced their Capstone Award winners Wednesday and Pinnacle is one of three recipients in the architectural design category, becoming the fourth Sporting Kansas City facility to receive the award in the last eight years.
10. Champions League Countdown
The month of February has arrived, and with that comes a monumental showdown between Sporting KC and Deportivo Toluca in the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Sporting will host the first leg at Children’s Mercy Park on Feb. 21 before traveling to Mexico for the decisive second leg on Feb. 28. Tickets to the contest at Children’s Mercy Park are now on sale at SeatGeek.com as Sporting hosts its earliest competitive match in club history.
In the 20 days leading up to Feb. 21, SportingKC.com is rattling off a 20-day Champions League countdown, hitting all the relevant storylines surrounding the two-legged fixture. From history and geography lessons to number crunching, player matchup and coaching backgrounds, this daily series will set the stage for a pivotal battle in which two successful sides aim to take their first steps toward Champions League glory.
11. Gaming Galore
If you didn't get enough eMLS last month, fear not – the next event is right around the corner. Details for eMLS League Series Two dropped on Wednesday, with the upcoming event set to give fans and participants alike a unique look into the history of US soccer – not to mention another thrilling evening of EA Sports FIFA 19 action. The second event of the 2019 eMLS season will take place on Sunday, February 17 at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco, Texas, starting at 4:30 pm CT.
Matches to Watch (Feb. 7-10, 2019)
|Tonight, 7pm||Sporting KC at Phoenix Rising FC||Preseason Friendly||@SKCmatchday|
|Friday, 1:30pm||Mainz vs. Bayer Leverkusen||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 6:30am||Fulham vs. Manchester United||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Saturday, 8:30am||Borussia Dortmund vs. Hoffenheim||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 9am||Liverpool vs. Bournemouth||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Saturday, 9:15am||Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Saturday, 11:30am||Bayern Munich vs. Schalke||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Sunday, 7:30am||Tottenham vs. Leicester City||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 10am||Manchester City vs. Chelsea||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 12pm||Toluca vs. Cruz Azul||Mexican Liga MX||Univision|
|Sunday, 1:45pm||Athletic Bilbao vs. Barcelona||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|