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. When Stars Collide
World-class talent will abound Tuesday night as European heavyweights FC Bayern and AC Milan go head-to-head in a marquee International Champions Cup showdown at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the 8 p.m. CT matchup remain available at Ticketmaster.com as two of the most storied clubs in the world lock horns in Kansas City, Kansas.
2. Next Level
From World Cup winners and trophy-laden veterans to rising stars, miserly goalkeepers and prolific attackers, Tuesday’s International Champions Cup clash will feature some of the sport’s greatest players. In no particular order, SportingKC.com has highlighted 10 elite performers who could take field Tuesday—all of whom are on the preseason squads for either FC Bayern or AC Milan.
3. Pegged Back
Sporting Kansas City’s two-game winning streaked was snapped in a 2-0 defeat to FC Dallas on Saturday night at Children’s Mercy Park. In a Western Conference battle contested amidst sweltering conditions with temperatures in the mid-90s, FC Dallas (9-8-5, 32 points) jumped to 6th place in the provisional standings while dropping Sporting (6-8-7, 25 points) five points below the playoff line.
4. Roger Returns
Saturday night’s loss left a taste of disappointment for Sporting Kansas City players and fans alike, but the spectacle did see a pivotal midfield contributor return to action. After overcoming a knee injury that sidelined him for three months, grizzled MLS veteran Roger Espinoza entered in the 65th minute to provide both a heavy dose of energy and a statistical rarity.
5. Duke of Sporting
Sporting Kansas City announced late last week that the club has signed 18-year-old midfielder Cameron Duke as a Homegrown Player. Duke has been added to the Sporting Kansas City roster, signing an MLS contract through 2022 with an option for 2023. A native of Overland Park, Kansas, Duke becomes the 11th Homegrown Player in club history. He entered the Sporting Kansas City Academy in 2012, rising from the U-12 to the U-19 ranks, and has represented United States youth national teams at the U-14, U-15, U-16 and U-18 levels.
6. Vote for Wendy
Major League Soccer has announced the finalists for the 2019 MLS WORKS Community MVP Contest presented by Wells Fargo, which recognizes individuals using soccer to make a difference in their community. The Grand Prize winner, voted on by fans, will be announced on-field during halftime of the 2019 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target at Exploria Stadium in Orlando on July 31 and will receive a $25,000 donation for their selected charity.
Sporting Kansas City’s local representative on the fan voting ballot is longtime soccer coach Wendy Louque, who has demonstrated an insatiable desire to improve the community and grow the sport of soccer through her work with Youth R.I.S.E. KC and a host of other mentor programs for underserved children across the metro area.
7. Looking West
Saturday’s outcomes across MLS were tough to swallow for Sporting. In addition to taking a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas, the club saw other Western Conference sides secure important wins. At the forefront, the San Jose Earthquakes won 3-1 at Vancouver, the Houston Dynamo prevailed 3-1 at Toronto, and Real Salt Lake and Minnesota United FC took a point apiece in a 1-1 draw.
8. Mobile Ordering
Sporting Kansas City has launched a stadium-wide mobile ordering solution for food, beverage and retail that debuted during Saturday’s match at Children’s Mercy Park. Available exclusively on Sporting KC home matchdays, mobile ordering is located within the Sporting KC App, which can be downloaded for free on Android and Apple devices at SportingKC.com/app.
9. Fall to Fury
The Swope Park Rangers (3-10-6, 15 points) suffered a 4-0 loss at the hands of Ottawa Fury FC (8-3-8, 32 points) on Saturday night at TD Place Stadium. Ottawa went on a scoring frenzy by scoring all four of their goals in an 18-minute span. SPR head coach Paulo Nagamura fielded his youngest lineup of the season, as the average age of the Rangers’ starters was 20.2 years old. Three players were on loan from Sporting Kansas City, including captain Graham Smith, Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal and Tyler Freeman.
10. Leagues Cup Lowdown
The first annual Leagues Cup competition kicks off on July 23, but the tournament is already expanding. Major League Soccer and Liga MX announced last week that the tournament field will double in 2020 from 8 participating clubs to 16, evenly split between the two leagues.
11. Good Samaritan
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.