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. End of the Road
Sporting Kansas City suffered a 6-0 defeat to FC Dallas in Sunday's regular season finale at Toyota Stadium, closing the curtains on a 2019 campaign that will see the side miss the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2010.
2. Homegrown Quartet
Although Sporting's eight-year postseason streak is over, the final chapter of 2019 carried historical significance that elicits optimism for the future. Indeed, Sunday marked the first time ever that four Homegrown Players started for Sporting Kansas City in a competitive match.
Forward Daniel Salloi was the most experienced of the bunch, logging his 79th career regular season appearance. Seventeen-year-old wunderkind Gianluca Busio took the field for his 29th MLS match and his 10th start of an impressive 2019 campaign. Midfielder Felipe Hernandez earned his first career MLS start, having debuted from off the bench a month earlier, and defender Jaylin Lindsey made his first league appearance of the year after overcoming a long-term knee injury.
3. Hungary for More
Sporting defender Botond Barath, striker Krisztian Nemeth and the Hungary Men's National Team will travel to face 2018 FIFA World Cup finalist Croatia on Thurday at Stadion Poljud in Split (1:45 p.m. CT) before hosting Azerbaijan on Sunday at Groupama Arena in Budapest (11 a.m. CT). Both UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches will stream live on the ESPN App and ESPN3.
4. Great Scot
Sporting forward Johnny Russell and Scotland will resume their Group I campaign in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying against Russia on Thursday, visiting the site of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow for a 1:45 p.m. CT kickoff. The Scots will then return home to face minnows San Marino at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Both games will stream live on the ESPN App and ESPN3.
5. Nico's Homecoming
Sporting defender Nico Hasler and Liechtenstein are set to host a pair of matches at Rheinpark Stadion in Vaduz, facing Armenia on Saturday before welcoming four-time World Cup champion Italy next Tuesday, Oct. 15. Both UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers will kick off at 1:45 p.m. CT.
6. Rangers Return Home
With just a single loss in their last six matches, the Swope Park Rangers (6-17-8, 26 points) will take the field Tuesday at world-class Children's Mercy Park when they host Ottawa Fury FC (13-9-9, 48 points) in the club’s final home match of the 2019 USL Championship campaign. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT and tickets for the Eastern Conference clash are available at SeatGeek.com or at the stadium box office beginning at 5 p.m. CT on matchday.
Tuesday's contest will stream live on ESPN Plus, while the USL Championship Match Center and @SwopeRangers on Twitter will provide additional in-game updates. Fans will also have the opportunity to win an exclusive prize prize package courtesy of Smile Generation—including an electric toothbrush plus an SPR scarf, beanie, bobblehead and more—by using the hashtag #RangersSmile on Twitter.
7. GA Cup Comes to KC
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-17s and U-15s will kick off 2019-20 Generation adidas Cup qualifying this weekend at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Missouri, playing three matches each between Friday and Monday. The Generation adidas Cup, now in its 13th edition, is one of the premier competitive youth soccer tournaments in North America. All Generation adidas Cup matches at Swope Soccer Village will be free and open to the public.
8. Academy in Action
Following four rounds of DA Cup group stage matches to open the 2019-20 Academy campaign, the Sporting Kansas City Academy officially kicked off its U.S. Soccer Development Academy regular season on Saturday in a tripleheader against the Houston Dynamo at Swope Soccer Village. The Sporting KC U-19s left it late before securing a hard-fought 1-0 victory, the U-17s secured a dramatic 3-2 win in a see-saw battle, and the U-15s twice took the lead before falling 4-2.
9. Playoffs Take Shape
Following the intense action on Decision Day presented by AT&T, the matchups are set for the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. For all 14 qualifying clubs, it’s win or go home in the new single-elimination, straight-bracket format that awards home-field advantage to the highest seeded teams. While top seeds LAFC and New York City FC have earned a bye in Round One, MLS on Sunday announced the schedule for the six Round One matches set for Saturday, Oct. 19, and Sunday, Oct. 20.
10. Pick the Bracket
The Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs start Oct. 19 as 14 teams vie for the biggest prize of the year: MLS Cup. But they won't be the only ones competing this season. Fans can get in on the action, too, by playing MLSsoccer.com's Bracket Challenge.
The Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge is free to play and fans have a ton of fun competing against friends, family and colleagues. Plus, contestants could win an Audi VIP Driving Experience, 2020 Season Tickets or a $500 MLSStore.com gift card. And with winners of each club league getting a $100 MLSStore.com gift card, there is more than one way to win.
11. King Carlos
LAFC forward Carlos Vela on Sunday won the 2019 Major League Soccer Golden Boot presented by Audi, establishing himself among the global game’s scoring elite, with an MLS record-breaking 34 goals this season. Vela scored a hat trick on MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T to decisively overtake the goalscoring record. The 34 goals tallied by Vela is tied for third worldwide alongside the reigning Golden Boot winners from both La Liga (Lionel Messi - 36 goals for FC Barcelona) and Ligue 1 (Kylian Mbappé - 33 goals for Paris Saint-Germain).