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. Open and Shut
Sporting Kansas City exited the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, falling 4-1 to Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. Gerso Fernandes drew Sporting level midway through the first half after Angelo Rodriguez had given Minnesota an early lead, but the Loons received a brace from Darwin Quintero and an Ethan Finlay strike in the second period. The result condemns Sporting to their first Round of 32 defeat in the Open Cup since 2000, breaking a streak of nine straight victories at this stage of the heralded knockout-style tournament.
2. Rest and Recover
Manager Peter Vermes’ side will now regroup before resuming their MLS regular season campaign on June 23, visiting Columbus Crew SC in a 4:30 p.m. CT kickoff at MAPFRE Stadium. The match will air live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.
3. Party in the Live Block
Sporting Kansas City has partnered with the Kansas City 2026 FIFA World Cup Bid and the Kansas City Power & Light District to host free Women’s World Cup watch parties at the KC Live! Block and No Other Pub in downtown Kansas City. The reigning World Cup champion United States Women's National Team will continue its pursuit of a second straight title on Sunday, meeting Chile at 11 a.m. CT in France. KC Live!, the 25,000-square-foot entertainment block in Kansas City's Power & Light District, will be the area’s premier destination for all U.S. Women’s National Team games. Match broadcasts will be shown live on the theater-sized screen and match commentary will play throughout the venue.
4. Heavyweights at CMP
The International Champions Cup announced Wednesday that German champions FC Bayern Munich and Italian powerhouse A.C. Milan will play at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan., on July 23 with kick off set for 8 p.m. CT. This event was originally scheduled to take place at Arrowhead Stadium, however due to unprecedented wet weather impacting a construction project at the world-class venue, the matchup between two of the sport’s most historic and successful teams will now be held at Sporting Kansas City’s state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadium.
5. Euro Trip
Sporting Kansas City players Botond Barath, Krisztian Nemeth, Nico Hasler and Johnny Russell represented their national teams this week as UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying continued in Europe. Barath and Nemeth helped Hungary take first place in Group E, Hasler earned two starts for Liechtenstein, and Johnny Russell featured for Scotland against world No. 1-ranked Belgium.
6. A Day at the Zoo
Fans and families are welcome to attend the fifth annual Sporting KC Day at the Zoo on Saturday at the Kansas City Zoo in Swope Park (6800 Zoo Dr., Kansas City, Mo.). Sporting stars Gianluca Busio, Benny Feilhaber, Tim Melia and Daniel Salloi will lead a family-friendly day of activities at one of the premier zoos in the region, painting with elephants, playing soccer with sea lions, interacting with penguins and signing autographs for everyone in attendance beginning at 2 p.m. CT. In conjunction with the event, the Kansas City Zoo is offering $3 off the price of regular admission to guests that wear Sporting apparel. Sporting mascot Blue will be on-site from 1:30-2:30 p.m. and the Sporting KC futsal court will be open inside the zoo from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
7. 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 Welborn Park in Kansas City, Kansas (N. 55th St. & Rowland 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 summer.
8. Vote Sporting
Fan Voting for the 2019 MLS All-Star Game Fan XI presented by Target remains open online at SportingKC.com, through the free MLS app, and via the EA SPORTS “More Than a Vote” Challenge until 1:59 a.m. CT on Friday. 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.
9. SPR in Action
The Swope Park Rangers (1-7-5, 8 points) will continue their 2019 USL Championship campaign on Saturday, hitting the road to meet North Carolina FC (6-2-5, 23 points) at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The Eastern Conference clash will kick off at 4 p.m. CT and stream live on ESPN+.
10. BS The Podcast
The second episode of The BS Podcast dropped Wednesday, reuniting the former teammates Benny Feilhaber, Sal Zizzo and Ike Opara. In a banter-filled conversation, Opara reflected on who he misses the most (and least) at Sporting, his transition to Minnesota United FC, who he plans to invite to his wedding ceremony and plenty more.
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.