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 Toronto
A compelling interconference clash beckons Friday as Sporting Kansas City (3-5-6, 15 points) ventures north of the border to face Toronto FC (5-6-3, 18 points) at BMO Field. The contest will air live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus and FOX Sports GO, while ESPN 94.5 FM and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM will carry local radio broadcasts.
Sporting have just one win to show from their previous 10 league fixtures, but history appears to be on Manager Peter Vermes' side heading into Friday. Sporting are unbeaten in nine straight MLS meetings against Toronto and have enjoyed plenty of success at BMO Field over the last decade.
2. First Fridays
In conjunction with the Toronto match, fans of all ages are invited to attend Sporting’s annual First Friday Party from 5-10 p.m. CT in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District (2020 Baltimore Ave., Kansas City, MO), home to Sporting’s corporate office. Guests who RSVP to the free event at SportingKC.com/FirstFriday will be treated to complimentary snacks and beverages and receive a Sporting KC pint glass.
The summer celebration will also serve as a watch party for Sporting’s match that evening, with a large outdoor screen showing the matchup for supporters in attendance. For more information about the event, click here.
3. Internationals on Saturday
Four Sporting players have traveled to Europe to join their respective national teams for the resumption of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying. An action-packed Saturday will see Botond Barath, Krisztian Nemeth and Hungary visit Azerbaijan at 11 a.m. CT, Nico Hasler and Liechtenstein visit Armenia at 11 a.m. CT, and Johnny Russell and Scotland host Cyprus at 1:45 p.m. CT. All three matches will stream live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
4. The Victory Lap
Sporting fans and families of all ages are welcome to participate in The Victory Lap 5K Run & Walk this Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park. All funds raised from the inaugural event will go directly to The Victory Project, the philanthropic arm of Sporting Kansas City that helps children fighting cancer and all of life’s challenges. Registration is now open and includes a race T-shirt, a finisher scarf and a complimentary ticket to the Swope Park Rangers home match vs. Charlotte Independence at 4 p.m. CT that afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park. The Run & Walk will begin at 8:30 a.m. CT, with participants starting and finishing inside the world-class stadium.
5. Benny’s New Podcast
Almost five years after starring in the smash-hit YouTube series The Benny Feilhaber Show, the dynamic duo has returned with a newly launched podcast series. Sporting midfielder Benny Feilhaber and former teammate Sal Zizzo dropped the pilot episode of "The BS Podcast" Wednesday, welcoming guest and Kansas City native Andy Gruenebaum to the show.
6. Sporting Recreation League
Sporting KC Youth Soccer has announced the launch of the Sporting Recreation League, debuting this fall for Pre-K through 2nd Grade boys and girls at the new, all-turf Olathe Soccer Complex (10550 S. Ridgeview Rd., Kansas City, KS). Player and team registration for the new league is now open with Early Bird pricing available through June 30. Among the numerous benefits of registering, all participants will receive a pair of adidas soccer cleats and an adidas jersey.
7. Rangers Fall
The Swope Park Rangers (1-7-4, 7 points) slipped to a heartbreaking 3-2 loss at the hands of Loudoun United FC (3-4-3, 12 points) on Wednesday night at Children’s Mercy Park. SPR twice came from behind via first-half goals from Sporting Kansas City Academy products Wilson Harris and Felipe Hernandez, cancelling out Kyle Murphy and Griffin Yow strikes amidst hot and humid playing conditions. The clubs appeared destined to split the points until the 87th minute when Connor Presley broke through to give Loudoun the narrow victory.
8. Academy Ends Strong
Three Sporting Kansas City Academy teams have ended their 2018-19 regular season campaigns on winning notes. In a Sunday tripleheader at Swope Soccer Village, the Sporting KC U-19s, U-17s and U-15s combined to sweep Solar Soccer Club and conclude the home portion of their 2018-19 schedule. On Monday, the U-19s and U-17s cemented their playoff seedings with victories over the Dallas Texans on the campus of the University of Tulsa.
9. MLS All-Star Fan Voting
Fan Voting for the 2019 MLS All-Star Game Fan XI presented by Target is now available online at SportingKC.com, through the free MLS app, and via the EA SPORTS “More Than a Vote” Challenge. Fan voting will run until 1:59 a.m. CT on June 14. The following Sporting players are eligible for fan voting: goalkeeper Tim Melia; defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi; midfielders Gianluca Busio, Felipe Gutierrez and Ilie Sanchez; and forwards Krisztian Nemeth and Johnny Russell.
10. World Cup Watch Parties
Beginning Saturday and running through July 7, No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District (1370 Grand Blvd.,) will open early at 10 a.m. for every 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup matchday. No Other Pub will show 43 of the tournament's 52 matches on their 10-foot-by-15-foot cinema screen and surrounding HDTV screens, in addition to offering food, drink and gaming options for viewers. The Women's World Cup kicks off at 2 p.m. CT Friday as hosts France meet South Korea, while the defending champion U.S. Women's National Team will open its tournament campaign next Tuesday, June 11, in a 2 p.m. CT kickoff against Thailand.
11. King of the Court
Players of all ages are invited to join Sporting for the club's annual King of the Court Futsal Tournament series presented by Raising Caines. Registration is now open at SportingKC.com for the second tournament on Saturday at Shawnee Park in Kansas City, Kansas (S 7th St. & Shawnee Ave.). The family-friendly event is free of charge and will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT. Tournaments will be split into two age groups (13 and under, 14 and over) and the winning teams will qualify for a final playoff at Children’s Mercy Park, taking place before a Sporting Kansas City home game later this year.