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. Aye Aye, Captain
Captain Matt Besler penned a letter to Sporting Kansas City fans on Friday, offering an emphatic message that his team is ready to fight to improve its positioning in the Western Conference as the second half of the season commences. Click here to give it a read.
2. Just Like Dad
Several Sporting Kansas City stars must have been extra proud of their children on this particular Father’s Day. From painting the wall and scoring goals to saving penalties and and spreading the love, the young daughters and sons of Matt Besler, Johnny Russell, Benny Feilhaber, Tim Melia, Felipe Gutierrez and Andreu Fontas gathered at Children’s Mercy Park to give the best impressions of their talented dads. The end result was a heartwarming collection of clips just in time for a special holiday celebrated annually on the third Sunday of June.
3. Legends Among Us
Sporting Kansas City has opened fan voting for the 2019 Sporting Legends inductee, giving supporters the opportunity to submit their write-in selection by clicking here. The 2019 inductee will be selected via fan vote and will be recognized as the newest Sporting Legend before a Sporting match at Children's Mercy Park later this year.
4. Star Center Backs
Border Patrol hosts Nate Bukaty, Steven St. John and Jake Gutierrez welcomed a pair of World Cup veteran center backs late last week. First up was Matt Besler, who continues to work his way back from a hamstring strain. The Border Patrol then welcomed legendary German World Cup champion Lothar Matthaus, who reflected on his storied career and looked ahead to the International Champions Cup match between Bayern and Italian side A.C. Milan. That game will take place on July 23 at Children's Mercy Park, with tickets on sale now at Ticketmaster.com.
5. Colossal Clubs
A marquee match in the International Champions Cup featuring German champions FC Bayern Munich and Italian powerhouse A.C. Milan will be played at Children’s Mercy Park on July 23. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT and tickets will be available to the general public online at Ticketmaster.com beginning Saturday at 10 a.m. CT. Kansas City will be hosting its ninth club friendly since 2010, while Children’s Mercy Park will be hosting its eighth since opening in 2011. Click here for a look back at the major club friendlies in Kansas City this decade.
6. The Yanks are Coming
The U.S. Men’s National Team will take on Panama in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup next Wednesday, June 26, at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the highly anticipated showdown are available at SeatGeek.com. This will be the eighth time Kansas City has hosted the Men’s National Team. SportingKC.com recently took a look at the previous seven times the U.S. MNT has visited Kansas City, with the side collecting six wins and a draw.
7. Wonder Women
The U.S. Women's National Team sealed passage to the knockout stage of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup with a 3-0 group stage win over Chile on Sunday in Paris. Carli Lloyd bagged a first-half brace and Julie Ertz added a third, setting up a decisive group stage finale against Sweden on Thursday at 2 p.m.
8. No Other Watch Party
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. 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, including Thursday's match against Sweden at 2 p.m. CT.
9. Conquering Columbus
Sporting will continue their 2019 regular season campaign on Sunday, visiting Columbus Crew SC in a 4:30 p.m. CT kickoff at MAPFRE Stadium. The interconference clash will air live on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus and FOX Sports Midwest Plus.
10. Academy Playoffs
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-17s and U-19s will take the field this week for the 2019 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs. The group stage runs today through Saturday at SoCal Sports Complex in Oceanside, California, consisting of a three-game round-robin, and will send every first-place finisher to the Development Academy quarterfinals on June 24-25. The four quarterfinal winners will advance to the Development Academy semifinals, slated to take place July 8-11 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.
11. Rangers Fall
The Swope Park Rangers (1-8-5, 8 points) took a 2-0 road loss to North Carolina FC (7-2-5, 26 points) on Saturday afternoon at Sahlen’s Stadium. The inaugural USL Championship meeting between the clubs saw Yamikani Chester and Andre Fortune score within the first 13 minutes as North Carolina FC provisionally jumped to third place in the Eastern Conference standings and kept SPR at the foot of the table.