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. Quest to Columbus
Rested and refreshed after a weekend off, Sporting Kansas City (3-5-7, 16 points) gets the ball rolling again on Sunday with a visit to fellow MLS originals Columbus Crew SC (5-9-2, 17 points). The interconference clash at MAPFRE Stadium will kick off at 4:30 p.m. CT with live coverage on FOX Sports Kansas City Plus, FOX Sports Midwest Plus, FOX Sports GO, Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
Both clubs will view Sunday as an excellent opportunity to right the ship heading into the second half of the MLS campaign. Sporting and Crew SC have earned one win each since early April, making this particular battle a vital tone-setter as the calendar crawls toward July.
Following a month-long road trip that took the club to five North American cities, Sporting will return to Children’s Mercy Park on July 3 for a highly anticipated showdown with MLS Supporters’ Shield leaders LAFC at 7:30 p.m. CT. In conjunction with the LAFC match and the Fourth of July holiday, Sporting has launched a limited-time Americana ticket package and unveiled its new adidas x Sporting KC Men’s Americana Top.
3. You're an All-Star
Sporting announced Tuesday that defender Graham Zusi has been named to the 2019 MLS All-Star Fan XI presented by Target. Zusi receives MLS All-Star recognition for the seventh time in his heralded career, tying club legend Preki for the most in Sporting history. The right back lands All-Star accolades for the third straight year, having earned his first four nods from 2012-2015. His seven All-Star selections since 2012 are the most in Major League Soccer.
4. No Other Watch Party
Sporting 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 (1370 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO). The reigning World Cup champion United States Women's National Team will continue their pursuit of a second straight title today, meeting Sweden at 2 p.m. CT in Le Havre, France. KC Live!, the 25,000-square-foot entertainment block in Kansas City's Power & Light District, is the area’s premier destination for all USA matches. Game broadcasts will be shown live on the theater-sized screen and match commentary will play throughout the venue.
5. Just Because
Just Because, presented by Hallmark, is a new feature series on SportingKC.com that provides an exclusive look into the lives of players outside of soccer—because everyday moments are sometimes worth celebrating just like a game-winning goal. In the first edition of Just Because, we catch up with Sporting defender and Colorado native Graham Smith, who joined the club in 2018 out of the MLS SuperDraft.
6. Benny and Sal Return
Five years after starring in the smash-hit YouTube series The Benny Feilhaber Show, Sporting midfielder Benny Feilhaber and former teammate Sal Zizzo have returned with The BS Podcast. The new show rolled onward Wednesday with a new episode featuring Orlando City SC midfielder Sacha Kljestan.
7. Biting the Big Apple
How does a summer getaway to see Sporting Kansas City battle New York City FC in the Big Apple sound? Away tickets for Sporting’s match at NYCFC on Friday, July 26, are now available. Click here to request your tickets to the contest, slated for 6:30 p.m. CT at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx (7:30 p.m. local time).
8. Back in the Carolinas
The Swope Park Rangers will visit South Carolina this weekend to face the Charleston Battery at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday inside MUSC Health Stadium. The Eastern Conference clash will be streamed live on ESPN+, while the USL Championship MatchCenter and @SwopeRangers on Twitter will offer in-game updates.
9. Playoff Time
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-19s and U-17s are taking the field this week for the 2019 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs at SoCal Sports Complex in Oceanside, California. The tournament's group stage is now underway and concludes Saturday, consisting of a three-game round-robin, and will send every first-place finisher to the Development Academy quarterfinals on Monday and Tuesday. The Sporting KC U-15s are also competing at SoCal Sports Complex in the U-15 Development Academy Summer Showcase. Follow the Academy on Twitter for updates throughout the week and visit SportingKCAcademy.com for the latest information on the club's youth development teams.
10. Community MVP
Each season, Major League Soccer and Wells Fargo recognize individuals who are using soccer to improve the lives of others. Do you know a leader leveraging the sport to make a difference in the Kansas City community? MLS WORKS and Wells Fargo wants to hear about them.
Fans can visit MLSsoccer.com/CommunityMVP to nominate a community MVP. Everyone nominated will be entered for the chance to win $25,000 to a charity of their choice and a trip to the 2019 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, taking place July 31 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
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 Canes. Registration is now open at SportingKC.com for the next tournament on Saturday at Westheight Park in Kansas City, Kansas (1774 N. 20th St.). 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 home game later this summer.