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. Down But Not Out
Sporting slipped to a 2-1 loss at Independiente in the first leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals on Wednesday at Estadio Agustin Sanchez in La Chorrera, Panama. Ilie Sanchez buried a 51st-minute penalty kick to give Sporting an all-important away goal, but an upstart Independiente side took the lead on 39 minutes through Romeesh Ivey and pulled ahead for good when Alexis Corpas unleashed a long-range stunner near the hour mark.
The result gives Sporting a 2-1 aggregate deficit going into the decisive second leg next Thursday at Children’s Mercy Park, slated for 7 p.m. CT. Tickets for the pivotal matchup are included in Sporting KC Season Ticket Member packages and are on sale now at SeatGeek.com.
2. Home Sweet Home
With a globetrotting road trip in the books, Sporting will now return to Kansas City for Sunday's MLS home opener against the Philadelphia Union at Children's Mercy Park. The highly anticipated matchup will kick off at 2 p.m. CT and tickets remain available at SeatGeek.com.
FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will provide three hours of live coverage beginning with Sporting KC Live presented by Bud Light at 1:30 p.m. CT, while local radio broadcasts will also air on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM. Postgame programming will include The Final Whistle show on 810 WHB and Sporting KC Live presented by Sprint on FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.
3. Beat the Lines
SportingStyle has opened matchday pre-orders for pickup at Sunday's match between Sporting and Philadelphia. Fans can shop a limited assortment of items between now and Sunday, including the club's new primary jersey in men’s, women’s and youth sizes as well as the primary jersey scarf. To kick off the MLS season, all fans who purchase a jersey at the match (including pre-orders) will receive a $20 SportingStyle gift card.
4. Eyes on 2026
The Kansas City 2026 FIFA World Cup Bid Executive Committee today officially kicks off the final phase of bidding to be named one of 10 United States host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the world’s largest single sport event.
Kansas City is one of 17 U.S. cities currently in contention to be named a Host City, a decision that is targeted to be made in late 2020. Each U.S. Host City anticipates hosting between 5-7 matches, which is estimated to generate up to $620 million in incremental economic activity according to a 2018 study done by leading global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group. A powerhouse group of Kansas City leaders have united to form the KC 2026 Bid Executive Committee, including Sporting Kansas City President and CEO Jake Reid.
5. Rangers at the Ready
Led by head coach Paulo Nagamura, the Swope Park Rangers will open their 2019 USL Championship season on Saturday at New York Red Bulls II. Kickoff at MSU Soccer Park in Montclair, New Jersey, is slated for noon CT with a live stream on ESPN+. Featuring a youthful and talented roster, the Rangers have advanced to the USL Cup playoffs in each of their first three seasons and were crowned Western Conference champions in 2016 and 2017.
6. Sweet Sixteen
The Swope Park Rangers announced today that the club has signed 16-year-old goalkeeper Brooks Thompson to a USL Championship contract. Thompson becomes the youngest player to sign a professional contract in Rangers history.
Thompson has recently started two preseason matches for the Rangers, a 5-0 defeat of Barton Community College on Feb. 2 and a 2-1 win at North Texas SC on Feb. 13. He was also one of five Sporting KC Academy players who trained with Sporting Kansas City at the club’s 2019 preseason camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, featuring in a shutout win over Phoenix Rising FC trialists on Jan. 23.
7. Fresh Face
The Swope Park Rangers have added forward William Opoku Mensah to the squad ahead of the 2019 season, the club announced Wednesday. The signing is pending the receipt of Opoku's International Transfer Certificate (ITC), as well as pending league and federation approval. The 23-year-old Mensah joins SPR from Karela United in his native Ghana. In the 2018 Ghanaian Premier League campaign, Opoku served as captain and tallied seven goals in just 11 games, including a 19-minute hat trick against traditional Ghanaian powerhouse Hearts of Oak last April.
8. Academy in Action
Three Sporting KC Academy teams will continue their U.S. Soccer Development Academy seasons on Saturday, visiting fellow MLS academy Houston Dynamo in a tripleheader at Houston Sports Park. The U-19s will kick off at 9 a.m. CT, followed by the U-17s at 11 a.m. and the U-15s at 1 p.m. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates this weekend and throughout the season.
9. Gamers' Paradise
Major League Soccer announced Tuesday that eMLS Cup presented by PlayStation, the marquee event for MLS’ EA SPORTS FIFA 19 league, is returning to PAX East on Saturday, March 30 in Boston, with a new PAX After Hours format. The eMLS Cup will also feature distribution on Twitch, alongside Twitter and MLSsoccer.com.
10. Melting Pot
Major League Soccer remains the most diverse professional league on the North American sports landscape, as new data compiled by MLS shows a player pool with a record 73 countries of birth represented and an average age that continues to drop.
That global representation across MLS’s current pool of 655 players ranks as the most of any professional soccer league in the world, and more than any sports league in North America. The United States leads the way with 290 players, followed by Canada (39), Argentina (30), France (24), Brazil (20) and Colombia (19).
11. Get Your Tickets
Single-game tickets to Sporting's first eight MLS home matches of 2019 — beginning with Fan Appreciation Day against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday and ending with a marquee matchup versus Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy on May 29 — are now on sale via SeatGeek.com.
In addition, limited quantities of full-season ticket packages remain available for supporters looking to catch every moment of the action at world-class Children’s Mercy Park. Four home dates will also feature Family Four Packs presented by Coca-Cola — consisting of four match tickets, four hot dogs, four Coca-Cola products and four bags of chips — including a game against the Montreal Impact on March 30.
Matches to Watch (March 8-10, 2019)
|Friday, 1:30pm||Juventus vs. Udinese||Italian Serie A||ESPN+|
|Friday, 1:30pm||Werder Bremen vs. Schalke||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 8:30am||Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg||German Bundesliga||FS1|
|Saturday, 8:30am||Borussia Dortmund vs. Stuttgart||German Bundesliga||FS2|
|Saturday, 11:30am||Manchester City vs. Watford||English Premier League||NBC|
|Saturday, 11:30am||Barcelona vs. Rayo Vallecano||Spanish La Liga||beIN SPORTS|
|Saturday, 12pm||Rangers at New York Red Bulls II||USL Championship||ESPN+|
|Saturday, 2pm||FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy||MLS||Univision, Twitter|
|Sunday, 7am||Liverpool vs. Burnley||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 9:05am||Chelsea vs. Wolverhampton||English Premier League||NBCSN|
|Sunday, 11:30am||Arsenal vs. Manchester United||English Premier League||NBC|
|Sunday, 2pm||Sporting vs. Philadelphia Union||MLS||FSKC, FSMW Plus|
|Sunday, 4pm||Atlanta United FC vs. FC Cincinnati||MLS||ESPN|
|Sunday, 6:30pm||LAFC vs. Portland Timbers||MLS||FS1|