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. Rev the Engine
A pair of MLS originals hoping to bounce back from recent setbacks will square off Saturday when Sporting hosts the New England Revolution at Children’s Mercy Park. The interconference clash will kick off at 7:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB, SiriusXM FC and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Sporting will celebrate community ties and civic pride on Saturday during Kansas City Night, highlighted by a $31 T-Shirt and ticket package in partnership with The Kansas City Clothing Company. Tickets for the match remain available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting looks to snap a five-game winless run in all competitions at the expense of the struggling Revolution.
2. The Lowdown
As mentioned above, fans have the opportunity to snap up a special-edition Kansas City Night T-shirt and ticket package while supplies last. The Kansas City Clothing Company T-shirt can be picked up Saturday on the Toyota Plaza. The new KNS CTY Scarf of the Match will also be available at SportingStyle locations inside the stadium, featuring “KC 96” and “KNS CITY” wordmarks with imagery of the Kansas City skyline.
The first 5,000 fans through the stadium gates on Saturday will receive a free, reusable grocery tote bag courtesy of match sponsor Price Chopper. Supporters will also be treated to a variety of interactive programming on the Toyota Plaza before kickoff, including the following:
- #KC2026 activation on the Toyota Plaza, featuring fan photos with a replica World Cup trophy
- DJ Ashton Martin spinning tunes on the Toyota Plaza
- Limited amounts of Sporting Cold Brew cans distributed by The Roasterie as fans exit the stadium after the match
- Kansas City Night videoboard graphics featuring iconic Kansas City imagery
- Recycle Your Game distribution bins at stadium entrances where fans can donate new or gently used soccer gear for underserved local youth
3. Get to Know Abdul
In the newest episode of The Sporting KC Show Podcast, which debuted Tuesday on Sports Radio 810 WHB, hosts Nate Bukaty and Carter Augustine caught up with Sporting defender Abdul Rwatubyaye. The 22-year-old center back shared fascinating details of his upbringing in Rwanda and his acclimation to MLS and live in the United States.
The genocide took the lives of more than one million Rwandans. Rwatubyaye discussed his family background, revealing that he never knew his father and his mother passed away when he was young. Additionally, several of his family members died during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, two years before he was born.
4. Salloi the Filmmaker
Athletes often channel their frustrations over an injury setback into other outlets. For Daniel Salloi, that apparently includes producing short documentary films. Salloi dropped Tuesday the first of what he promises will be a series of behind-the-scenes shorts that let you into his life playing for Sporting KC. The four-minute spot below chronicles his recovery process following an ankle injury he sustained a bit over a month ago, which he just came back from with a substitute appearance on April 14.
5. Rivalry Renewed
The Swope Park Rangers and Saint Louis FC will renew their rivalry on Saturday when the clubs square off at Toyota Stadium in Fenton, Missouri. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. CT with a live stream available on ESPN+.
6. Bilyeu Retires
Swope Park Rangers defender Justin Bilyeu has announced his retirement from professional soccer after a four-year career in the USL Championship and Major League Soccer. Bilyeu, 25, leaves the sport due to a history of concussions. He will remain under contract with the Rangers for the remainder of 2019 while he receives care from the SPR and Sporting Kansas City medical staff.
7. Greener Goals
Sporting KC players and associates partnered with local organizations through a variety of volunteer opportunities during the fourth annual MLS WORKS Greener Goals Week of Service from April 16-22. The club’s week of service was highlighted by a visit to Children’s Mercy Hospital, cleanup at the Kansas City Pet Project animal shelter, and outdoor work at the Heartland Tree Alliance, Shawnee Mission Park and the Ronald McDonald House.
8. Ozzy Gets the Call
Sporting KC Academy forward Osvaldo Cisneros has been selected to the United States U-15 Boys' National Team for the 2019 Torneo delle Nazioni, a prestigious youth international tournament slated to run from April 23 to May 5 in Gradisca, Italy.
Cisneros has joined a 19-player roster assembled by Steve Klein, the Academy Director at U.S. Soccer Development Academy club PA Classics who will serve as head coach. The competition marks the first international games of the year for the U-15s, who are preparing for this summer’s 2019 Concacaf U-15 Boys’ Championship.
9. Saturday at Swope
On the same day that the MLS clubs square off at Children's Mercy Park, the Sporting Kansas City Academy will host the New England Revolution Academy in a Saturday tripleheader at Swope Soccer Village. The U-15s and U-17s will take the field at noon CT before the U-19s kick off at 2 p.m. CT. All matches are free and open to the public, and fans can follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates.
10. Dynamic Duo
Sporting KC midfielder Gianluca Busio and forward Tyler Freeman were named to the United States U-17 Men’s National Team roster earlier this week for the 2019 Concacaf U-17 Championship, running from May 1-16 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The 16-year-old Sporting KC Academy products are two of 20 players on head coach Raphael Wicky’s roster for the tournament, which will see 20 nations compete for the continental crown. The four semifinalists will qualify for the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Brazil as representatives of Concacaf.
11. Good Samaritans
Sporting and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City are teaming up throughout 2019 to recognize Blue KC Sporting Samaritans, honoring students and teachers who make the Kansas City community a better place to live, work and play. Once a month, a Samaritan will be recognized on the pitch at Children's Mercy Park before a Sporting KC home game. The Samaritan and a limited number of guests will receive a behind the scenes VIP experience with a wide variety of all-inclusive perks. Supporters can nominate members of their community to be the next Blue KC Sporting Samaritan at SportingKC.com/bluekc.