Champions League Countdown | 9 Days: Why Toluca are in for a challenge at Children's Mercy Park

The month of February has arrived, and with that comes a monumental showdown between Sporting Kansas City and Deportivo Toluca FC in the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Sporting KC 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 as Sporting hosts its earliest competitive match in club history.

In the 20 days leading up to Feb. 21, will rattle 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 matchups 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.

Looking for reasons to be optimistic ahead of Sporting KC's first-leg battle with Toluca in nine days' time? Consider this: Sporting has lost just one competitive international match in the friendly confines of world-class Children's Mercy Park.

Since the stadium opened to rave reviews in 2011, Manager Peter Vermes' men have gone 4-1-2 in Champions League action at home. The lone blemish was a 2-1 defeat to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sept. 13, 2016, a fixture in which Sporting fielded a heavily rotated squad after Vancouver had all but won the group one month earlier. Subtract this setback from the mix, and Vermes' side has claimed four straight home wins in the Champions League.

2013-14: Edging the Eventual Champions

Sporting opened the 2013-14 group stage with impressive away wins at Real Esteli in Nicaragua and C.D. Olimpia in Honduras. These results put the club on Easy Street the rest of the way, and home draws against the same teams—which came during the thick of Sporting's 2013 Supporters' Shield chase—secured a spot in the following spring's knockout stage.

Most people know by now how Sporting's quarterfinal series with Cruz Azul went. A 5-1 defeat in the second leg in Mexico City was the springboard that Cruz Azul needed to eventually win the Champions League. But the Children's Mercy Park faithful made their impact in the first leg, helping the hosts to a gritty 1-0 win on a goal from Homegrown defender Kevin Ellis.

2014-15: Taking Care of Business

Sporting had some work to do after a cagey 1-1 draw at Real Esteli in their group stage opener. The two results that followed, a 3-1 scalp of Deportivo Saprissa and a 3-0 win over Real Esteli, came in the space of five days in September 2014.

With his team fighting a slew of injuries, Vermes first orchestrated a routine victory over Costa Rican powerhouse Deportivo Saprissa. Dom Dwyer converted an early penalty and Spaniard Antonio Dovale bagged a second-half brace to seal the deal. Less than a week later, Claudio Bieler scored twice and Sal Zizzo added a third to complete the beating of Esteli. Unfortunately, Sporting would relinquish their pole position in the group with a loss at Saprissa the next month.

2016-17: Sinking Central FC

Sporting had already been eliminated by the time of their group stage finale with Trinidadian side Central FC in October 2016, but fans were nonetheless treated to an entertaining win as Cameron Porter, Nansel Selbol and Connor Hallisey found the back of the net.

Sporting KC: Champions League matches at Children's Mercy Park

Date Opponent Stage Result
09/17/2013 vs. Real Esteli (NCA) Group T 1-1
10/23/2013 vs. C.D. Olimpia (HON) Group T 0-0
03/12/2014 vs. Cruz Azul (MEX) Quarterfinals W 1-0
09/18/2014 vs. Deportivo Saprissa (CRC) Group W 3-1
09/23/2014 vs. Real Esteli (NCA) Group W 3-0
09/13/2016 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (CAN) Group L 1-2
10/19/2016 vs. Central FC Group W 3-1