Starting XI - April 8, 2019
Olivia Brestal

Starting XI: Sweet Sixteen

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. Sweet Sixteen

Sporting Kansas City (2-1-2, 8 points) battled back to claim a 1-1 road draw with expansion side FC Cincinnati (2-2-2, 8 points) on Sunday afternoon at Nippert Stadium. After falling behind to Darren Mattocks’ 19th-minute penalty kick, Sporting equalized through blossoming Academy product Gianluca Busio in the 62nd minute to secure a point and extend the club’s regular-season unbeaten run to four matches.

At 16 years and 314 days, Busio becomes the youngest player in Major League Soccer history to score in back-to-back regular season matches, having opened his 2019 scoring account in last Saturday’s 7-1 home victory over the Montreal Impact.

2. Monterrey Rematch

With Sunday's draw in the books, Manager Peter Vermes' side will now prepare for two pivotal home matches this week, beginning Thursday when the team hosts Monterrey in the decisive second leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Semifinals at 8 p.m. CT. Tickets for the game are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting aims to overcome a 5-0 deficit on aggregate against the three-time Champions League winners.

Thursday's match will stream live in English on YahooSports.com and the Yahoo Sports app while airing live in Spanish on Univision Deportes. Listeners can also catch the action live locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish), with The Final Whistle postgame show immediately afterward on 810 WHB.

3. Red Bull Reckoning

Sporting will then resume their MLS regular season campaign on Sunday, welcoming the defending MLS Supporters' Shield champion New York Red Bulls in a nationally televised showdown on FS1 and FOX Deportes. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. CT with local radio broadcasts airing live on ESPN 94.5 FM (English) and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM (Spanish), followed by The Final Whistle postgame show on Sports Radio 810 WHB.

Tickets for Sunday's fixture are on sale at SeatGeek.com, including a limited-time ticket package consisting of a ticket and a Sporting/Kansas City Royals co-branded scarf. Sunday also serves as the Sporting Sustainability theme night, featuring a variety of unique offers to supporters in conjunction with the MLS WORKS Greener Goals campaign. For the first time, fans will have the opportunity to purchase Sporting’s new Parley jersey, a kit created with Parley Ocean Plastic made from recycled waste from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean.

4. Sign 'Em Up

Sporting has signed 14 players from Special Olympics Kansas and Special Olympics Missouri to two-game contracts, the club announced today. The unified team will take the field Sunday night at Children's Mercy Park immediately after Sporting's MLS match against the New York Red Bulls.

Once the MLS teams exit the pitch on Sunday night, supporters are encouraged to stay in their seats for a Special Olympics Unified Soccer exchange game between Special Olympics Sporting Kansas City and Special Olympics New York Red Bulls.

5. Beat the Lines

SportingStyle has opened matchday pre-orders for pickup at Thursday's match between Sporting and Monterrey. Fans can shop for a limited assortment of items between now and then, including the Champions League matchup scarf and new items from the Sporting Club collection. SportingStyle will then open matchday pre-orders for Sunday's contest against the New York Red Bulls on Friday morning, with the new Parley jersey among the items available for selection. Follow @SportingStyle on Twitter and Instagram for sneak peeks of all the latest club apparel.

6. Week 6 Roundup

Miss any of the Week 6 action in MLS? The league website has you covered below with its three-minute roundup, covering all the biggest storylines from the weekend's games.

7. Next Generation

The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-17s will travel to Frisco, Texas, this weekend for the start of the 2019 Generation adidas Cup, a high-profile tournament running from April 13-20 that features elite professional club academies from North America, Asia, Europe and South America. Click here for the full Generation adidas Cup schedule and follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates throughout the tournament.

8. Gold Rush

On Wednesday, the official draw for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup will unfold during an event in Los Angeles that takes place 100 days before the biennial tournament kicks off on June 15. The draw will confirm group stage assignments and the full match schedule for all 16 participants, including the Group D doubleheader featuring the United States Men's National Team on June 26 at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets for the doubleheader are on sale now at SeatGeek.com.

9. Open Cup on ESPN+

U.S. Soccer and ESPN+ have reached an exclusive, multi-year media rights agreement for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s national championship for clubs and the longest-running domestic cup competition in the United States. All U.S. Open Cup matches from the First Round through the Final will air exclusively on ESPN+, the direct-to-consumer sports streaming service, beginning this year and running through the 109th edition of the tournament in 2022. The deal, negotiated by SUM on behalf of U.S. Soccer, includes rights in all languages.

10. Rangers Usurped

The Swope Park Rangers (0-2-1, 1 point) fell to Bethlehem Steel FC (2-2-1, 7 points) in a 4-3 thriller on Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park. Ethan Vanacore-Decker gave the hosts an early lead and Jerome Ngom Mbekeli struck twice as the Rangers carried a 3-1 advantage into the final 20 minutes, but Bethlehem rallied late to claim all three points in a back-and-forth affair.

11. New Keeper

The Swope Park Rangers have signed 17-year-old goalkeeper John Pulskamp, the club announced late last week. The U.S. youth international joins the Rangers after spending two Development Academy seasons with the LA Galaxy Academy. Prior to his stint with the Galaxy, Pulskamp represented California-based academies Real So Cal and Central California Aztecs.

Series: