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. Off and Running
Sporting KC will open the club's 2019 season on Thursday with a highly anticipated showdown against Mexican side Deportivo Toluca FC in the first leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16, slated for 7 p.m. CT at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets for the marquee matchup are included in Sporting KC Season Ticket Member packages and remain available to the general public at SeatGeek.com.
Thursday's contest, the earliest competitive match in Sporting KC history, will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app, while a Spanish-language telecast will air live on Univision Deportes. In addition, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM will carry the game over the radio, with 810 WHB airing The Final Whistle postgame show immediately after the match.
2. Countdown to Kickoff
In the 20 days leading up to Thursday, SportingKC.com has rattled 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 sets the stage for a pivotal battle in which two successful sides aim to take their first steps toward Champions League glory.
3. President's Day
In light of President's Day, Sporting KC President and CEO Jake Reid will conduct a question and answer session with fans on Twitter today at 10 a.m. CT. Supporters can submit their questions by tagging the @SportingKC or @JakeReid33 Twitter handles or by using the hashtag #AskJake.
4. Over the Air
A new episode of The Sporting KC Show will air Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT on Sports Radio 810 WHB. Hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine will preview the Concacaf Champions League battle, review Sporting's successful preseason campaign and welcome multiple club guests to the program.
5. Toluca's Tribulations
In their final Liga MX fixture before traveling to Children’s Mercy Park for the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16, Deportivo Toluca FC slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Leon on Saturday night. Los Diablos Rojos are now 0-4-1 in their last five Liga MX matches, having scored just once during their winless skid, and occupy 13th place in the league table. The visitors failed to record a single shot on target Saturday against a superior Leon side that did all of its damage in the second half.
6. Cisse Finishes Strong
The second event of the 2019 eMLS season took place Sunday at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Frisco, Texas. Macisse Diop represented Sporting KC in eMLS League Series Two, featuring some of the top EA SPORTS FIFA players from across the country. Diop racked up two victories, two losses and four draws against eight different opponents, ending the event on a two-game winning streak. His strong finish propelled him to a fifth-place finish in the tournament's Western Conference.
7. Stock Up
With just three days until Sporting's showdown with Deportivo Toluca FC in the Concacaf Champions League, fans have every reason to stock up on the newest gear. Ahead of Thursday's curtain raiser at Children's Mercy Park, supporters can visit MLSstore.com through tonight at 11 p.m. CT for free shipping on all orders over $49.
8. Preseason Prep
The Swope Park Rangers will continue their preparations for the 2019 USL Championship season on Saturday, traveling to face Creighton University in a scrimmage at 3:30 p.m. CT at Morrison Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. Follow @SwopeRangers on Twitter for live updates.
9. Midweek Madness
Sporting KC aren't the only MLS side taking the field this week in the Concacaf Champions League. Toronto FC and the Houston Dynamo are in action Tuesday night, the New York Red Bulls will play Wednesday, and Atlanta United FC will join Sporting KC as part of Thursday's slate.
Concacaf announced Thursday that all 2019 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League matches will stream live in English on the Yahoo Sports app on iOS and Google Play, as well as at YahooSports.com. In addition, fans will be able to follow all the action through the Confederation’s partner networks, including Univision Deportes (United States), Fox Sports Latin America (Mexico & Central America), Flow Sports (Caribbean) and other local broadcast partners.
10. Academy in Action
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-15s and U-17s will conclude their 2019 Generation adidas Cup qualifying campaigns today at Houston Sports Park in Houston, Texas. The U-15s will face the Chicago Fire at 9 a.m. CT before the U-17s meet Toronto FC at 1 p.m. CT. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates.
11. The Soccer Don
Major League Soccer announced late last week that Commissioner Don Garber’s contract has been extended through the 2023 season, with a new five-year agreement recently approved by the MLS Board of Governors. Garber, 61, has presided over MLS’s dramatic growth and consolidation since taking the post in 1999, with the league expanding from 12 to 27 clubs, adding 25 new owners and developing 19 soccer stadiums across the United States and Canada.
Matches to Watch (Feb. 18-21, 2019)
|Today, 1:30pm||Nurnburg vs. Borussia Dortmund||German Bundesliga||FS1|
|Today, 1:30pm||Chelsea vs. Manchester United||English FA Cup||ESPN+|
|Tuesday, 2pm||Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich||UEFA Champions League||TNT|
|Tuesday, 7pm||Independiente vs. Toronto FC||Concacaf Champions League||Yahoo Sports, UDN|
|Tuesday, 9pm||Guastatoya vs. Houston Dynamo||Concacaf Champions League||Yahoo Sports, UDN|
|Wednesday, 2pm||Atletico Madrid vs. Juventus||UEFA Champions League||TNT|
|Wednesday, 7pm||Atletico Pantoja vs. NY Red Bulls||Concacaf Champions League||Yahoo Sports, UDN|
|Thursday, 7pm||Sporting KC vs. Toluca||Concacaf Champions League||Yahoo Sports, UDN|
|Thursday, 9pm||Herediano vs. Atlanta United FC||Concacaf Champions League||Yahoo Sports, UDN|