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. And Then There Were Four
The daunting climb up the Champions League mountain continues tonight when Sporting Kansas City visits Mexican powerhouse CF Monterrey in the first leg of the heralded tournament’s semifinals. Kickoff at the world-class Estadio BBVA Bancomer is set for 9 p.m. CT as Sporting and Rayados lock horns for the first time, hoping to build an aggregate lead heading into next week’s decisive return leg at Children’s Mercy Park.
Making their semifinal debut in North America’s premier club competition, Sporting are the only MLS team still alive in the Champions League field. Manager Peter Vermes’ side joins Liga MX heavyweights Monterrey, Santos Laguna and Tigres UANL in the final four, aiming to become the first MLS outfit to win the title since the tournament’s modern era began in 2008.
2. How to Follow
Tonight's high-stakes showdown will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app, while Univision Deportes will air a Spanish-language telecast. Local listeners can also follow the action on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish), with additional in-game updates and exclusive offers available on the new Sporting KC App.
3. Countdown Complete
In the 10 days leading up to this highly anticipated series, SportingKC.com has rattled off a 10-day Champions League Countdown focused on Monterrey, hitting all the relevant storylines, stats and players to watch for the three-time Champions League winners. Catch up on every part of the series right here.
4. Hasler Onboard
Sporting has signed 27-year-old defender Nicolas Hasler, the club announced Tuesday. Hasler, whose contract runs through the end of the 2019 MLS season, has been added to the Sporting KC roster and will occupy an international roster spot.
As one of the country’s most decorated players this decade, Hasler has scored three goals in 59 caps for the Liechtenstein Men’s National Team since 2010 and was named Liechtensteiner Footballer of the Year in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
5. Swope in Session
While Sporting hits the road, the Swope Park Rangers will continue a three-game homestand in the USL Championship on Saturday. Head coach Paulo Nagamura's men will battle Bethlehem Steel FC at 4 p.m. CT inside Children's Mercy Park, streaming live on ESPN+. Tickets for the contest are available at SeatGeek.com or at the stadium box office beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday.
6. Perfect Primer
Looking for the perfect primer ahead of Sporting’s biggest international match in club history? Fitting the bill perfectly is the newest episode of the Sporting KC Show Podcast, which dropped Wednesday night on Sports Radio 810 WHB with hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine.
7. Captain's Thoughts
Sporting captain Matt Besler knows the trip to Estadio BBVA Bancomer will be a formidable one. Nevertheless, the defender thinks his squad is ready for the task at hand. Making his customary Sports Radio 810 WHB appearance with Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty, Steven St. John and Jake Gutierrez on Wednesday morning, the Sporting KC center back spoke with great enthusiasm about tonight's first leg.
8. Man in the Middle
Sporting fans who believe in good omens will feel good about two facts pertaining to Mario Escobar, the Guatemalan referee who will officiate tonight’s first leg of the Concacaf Champions League Semifinals between Sporting and CF Monterrey at Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Guadalupe, Mexico. Click here to learn more.
9. Successful Surgery
Sporting defender Jaylin Lindsey underwent successful surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and will be sidelined for four to five months. Lindsey’s surgery was performed under the care of Sporting KC’s chief medical officer Dr. Scott Luallin at Truman Medical Center – Lakewood Hospital in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
10. GA Cup
Major League Soccer announced Tuesday the complete details for the 2019 Generation adidas Cup, including the participating international clubs and the full schedule of matches set to unfold throughout the tournament.
The Sporting KC Academy U-17s will join clubs from 14 different countries at the Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco, Texas, competing from April 13-20 in a tournament featuring elite professional club academies from North America, Asia, Europe and South America.
11. Digital Delight
Children’s Mercy Park recently installed 835 linear feet of new LED field boards and added a dynamic digital display in the southeast corner of the stadium as a result of a new partnership between Sporting Kansas City and Daktronics, the companies announced Tuesday.