Starting XI - Feb. 21, 2019
Olivia Brestal

Starting XI: Tackling Toluca

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. Tackling Toluca

A colossal matchup comes straight out of the gates as Sporting open their 2019 season tonight against Mexican outfit Deportivo Toluca FC in the first leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Kickoff at Children’s Mercy Park is slated for 7 p.m. CT, pitting two accomplished sides that aim to take their first step toward winning North America’s most prestigious club tournament. Tickets for the contest are included in Sporting KC Season Ticket Member packages and can be purchased at SeatGeek.com. For the full match preview, click here.

2. How to Watch

The earliest competitive match in Sporting KC history will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app. Click here to go the Yahoo Sports streaming page. Univision Deportes will also broadcast tonight's game live in Spanish. Check your local listings for channel numbers and availability.

Listeners can follow the action live locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish). The Final Whistle postgame show will air immediately afterwards on 810 WHB. Lastly, the all-new Sporting KC app will provide in-game updates, exclusive offers and give fans a more personalized experience with their favorite MLS club. Click here to learn more.

3. Countdown Complete

After weeks of palpable anticipation, Sporting and Toluca are finally set to lock horns in the 2019 Scotiabank Champions League Round of 16. 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 matchups and coaching backgrounds, this daily series has set the stage for a pivotal battle in which two successful sides aim to take their first steps toward Champions League glory.

4. New App, Who Dis?

Sporting KC, in collaboration with fan engagement software and analytics company FanThreeSixty, has announced an all-new official team app ahead of tonight's season opener. The revamped app, available for download today, gives fans a more personalized experience with the MLS club.

With enhanced design and personalization in mind, the new Sporting app gives each fan a custom experience with in-venue offers, in-app promotions, and news and content tailored to the individual. The elevated mobile platform gives fans faster access to club information, scores and highlight videos. Notifications like live scores and stats, breaking news and ticket specials are delivered right to the fans’ homescreen, ensuring they never miss a moment on or off the field.

5. Title Changes

Sporting announced on Tuesday title changes for two members of the club’s technical staff: Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes and Technical Director/Vice President of Player Personnel Brian Bliss. As Manager and Sporting Director, Vermes will continue his oversight of all soccer operations at Sporting, including day-to-day coaching, roster management, scouting and the development of the Swope Park Rangers and the Sporting KC Academy. Bliss will continue to oversee Sporting’s player personnel matters while managing the salary cap, negotiating contracts, holding a scouting role and assisting in player development across Sporting’s professional pathway.

6. Patterson Cup

Sporting this week announced the launch of the inaugural Patterson Cup, an elite tournament featuring six of the top youth academies from Major League Soccer. The Patterson Cup will take place in conjunction with the first-ever Sporting Next Gen Invitational, slated for March 30-31 at the world-class Wyandotte Sporting Fields in Kansas City, Kansas. The marquee event will see six U-12 academy clubs square off, including Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC.

7. Best Buddies

The Kansas City Royals and Sporting are teaming up to offer co-branded apparel as part of special ticket packages for local fans to support their hometown teams on April 13 at Kauffman Stadium and April 14 at Children’s Mercy Park. Through this joint initiative, both teams will combine an exclusive collector’s item with a discounted ticket as Sporting and the Royals each take on opponents which finished in first place in 2018. Click here for full details.

8. Sporting Sounds

With a mouthwatering Champions League clash at Children’s Mercy Park upon us, a new episode of the Sporting KC Show dropped Tuesday night with hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine on Sports Radio 810 WHB.

Dishing up a comprehensive preview of tonight's battle between Sporting and Toluca, the duo were joined by defender Graham Zusi—a seasoned veteran who is no stranger to high-level international competitions—as well as Dan Lolli, Vice President of Operations at Sporting KC. Lolli and his crew have endured a remarkably busy offseason, installing a new field at Children’s Mercy Park while coping with an oppressively cold and snowy winter.

9. Sunday at Swope

The Swope Park Rangers’ preseason match against Creighton University has been rescheduled for this Sunday, Feb. 24, at Swope Soccer Village. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. CT and admission is free and open to the public. The preseason tune-up was originally scheduled to take place a day earlier at Creighton’s Morrison Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska, but winter weather forecasts prompted the fixture to be rearranged.

10. Riley Reeled In

The Swope Park Rangers announced Wednesday that the club has signed 22-year-old midfielder Camden Riley to a USL contract. Riley was selected by Sporting with the No. 45 overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft last month but did not sign for the club. He has joined the Rangers for their preseason preparations ahead of the USL Championship campaign, which begins March 9 with a visit to New York Red Bulls II.

Midfielder Kamar Marriott and defender Franky Martinez, Sporting’s other two picks in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, are no longer with the club and have pursued other professional opportunities.

11. Mixed Results

Sporting aren't the only MLS club taking the field for Champions League action this week. Three teams already have their Round of 16 first legs in the books, while Atlanta United FC will join Sporting as part of tonight's doubleheader with a tricky 9 p.m. CT visit to Costa Rican outfit Herediano.

On Tuesday, 2018 Champions League finalists Toronto FC suffered a shock 4-0 defeat at Panamanian side Independiente, a decided underdog making its tournament debut. The Houston Dynamo fared better on their travels, earning a 1-0 road win over Guastatoya of Guatemala to set up a comfortable return leg next week.

On Wednesday, the New York Red Bulls eased to a 2-0 away victory in the Dominican Republic against Atletico Pantoja. Next week's second leg will take place at Red Bull Arena. Click here to view the 2019 Champions League bracket.

Matches to Watch (Feb. 21-24, 2019)

Time (CT) Game Competition Channel
Tonight, 7pm Sporting KC vs. Toluca Concacaf Champions League Yahoo Sports, UDN
Tonight, 9pm Herediano vs. Atlanta United FC Concacaf Champions League Yahoo Sports, UDN
Friday, 1:45pm West Ham vs. Fulham English Premier League NBCSN
Saturday, 6:30am Burnley vs. Tottenham English Premier League NBCSN
Saturday, 8:30am Bayern Munich vs. Hertha Berlin German Bundesliga FS2
Saturday, 9:15am Sevilla vs. Barcelona Spanish La Liga beIN SPORTS
Saturday, 11:15am PSG vs. Nimes French Ligue 1 beIN SPORTS
Sunday, 8:05am Manchester United vs. Liverpool English Premier League NBCSN
Sunday, 10:30am Manchester City vs. Chelsea English Carabao Cup Final ESPN+
Sunday, 11am Dortmund vs. Bayer Leverkusen German Bundesliga FS2
Sunday, 1:45pm Levante vs. Real Madrid Spanish La Liga beIN SPORTS
Sunday, 6pm Santos Laguna vs. Toluca Mexican Liga MX Univision Deportes
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