Champions League Countdown | 4 Days: Sporting's shortest offseason ever is about to end

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 Thursday 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, 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 matchups and coaching backgrounds, this daily series sets the stage for a pivotal battle in which two successful sides aim to take their first steps toward Champions League glory.

Blink once or twice, and you may have missed Sporting Kansas City’s entire offseason.

At least it feels that way, as a mere 80 days have passed since Manager Peter Vermes’ men fell just short in the Western Conference Championship of the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Sporting’s 2018 campaign officially ended on Nov. 29. The new season will officially start Thursday when the side hosts Toluca in the first leg of the 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. And by the time the highly anticipated matchup kicks off at world-class Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting will have officially ended its shortest offseason in club history.

The 2018-19 offseason will last precisely 83 days. That’s a full week shorter than the team’s previous record of 90 days, which spanned from their 2013 MLS Cup victory on Dec. 7 to their 2014 regular-season opener on March 8.

Below is a table that lists the lengths of every Sporting offseason since 1996-97. To put this year’s 83-day break into context at the local level, consider the offseason lengths of the Kansas City Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Royals will go 178 days—almost exactly six months—between their 2018 finale and their 2019 MLB opener on March 28. The Chiefs will go at least 227 days between their AFC Championship Game appearance and their 2019 NFL opener, which will come anywhere between Sept. 5-9.

Sporting KC Offseason Lengths All-Time

Offseason Last Game First Game Offseason Days
1996-97 10/13/96 3/29/97 166
1997-98 10/8/97 3/21/98 163
1998-99 9/27/98 3/20/99 173
1999-2000 10/9/99 3/25/00 167
2000-01 10/15/00 4/7/01 173
2001-02 11/21/01 3/3/02 101
2002-03 10/2/02 4/12/03 191
2003-04 11/15/03 4/3/04 139
2004-05 11/14/04 3/9/05 114
2005-06 10/15/05 4/1/06 167
2006-07 10/14/06 4/14/07 181
2007-08 11/10/07 3/29/08 139
2008-09 11/8/08 3/21/09 132
2009-10 10/24/09 3/27/10 153
2010-11 10/23/10 3/19/11 146
2011-12 11/6/11 3/10/12 124
2012-13 11/7/12 3/2/13 114
2013-14 12/7/13 3/8/14 90
2014-15 10/30/14 3/8/15 128
2015-16 10/29/15 3/6/16 128
2016-17 10/27/16 3/4/17 127
2017-18 10/26/17 3/4/18 128
2018-19 11/29/18 2/21/19 83

Only time will tell whether this shortened break has any effect on Sporting’s performance over the course of 2019. However, it’s not unreasonable to think that the quick turnaround will have the team gelling far earlier this season—something that can only help their bid for a sustained run in the Champions League. With Sporting’s cohesion and fitness levels well ahead of schedule, a brief break just might be what the doctor ordered against Toluca.

From a fan’s perspective, a shorter offseason is an absolute treat. Just over a decade ago, Sporting went almost six full months between games. Fast-forward to now, and supporters can treat themselves to the club’s earliest competitive match—and the first to be played during the month of February. Rather than wait for months and let the heartbreak of a playoff loss linger, Sporting fans will have their soccer appetites quenched earlier than ever before.

Tickets for Thursday’s first-leg encounter are included in Sporting KC Season Ticket Member packages and available to the general public at A raucous atmosphere at Children’s Mercy Park, not to mention wintery playing conditions on the field, just might be the deciding factor that swings the contest in Sporting’s favor.