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. Bound for Brazil
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio was named to the United States roster today for the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil from Oct. 26 to Nov. 17. The United States will kick off their world championship campaign when Group D play opens on Sunday, Oct. 27 vs. Senegal (2:50 p.m. CT; FS1, Telemundo), then faces Japan on Wednesday, Oct. 30 (5:50 p.m. CT; FS2, Universo) and finishes the group stage on Saturday, Nov. 2 vs. Netherlands (5:50 p.m. CT; FS2, Universo).
2. Guardian's Galaxy
On a related note, Busio has been named to The Guardian’s Next Generation list featuring 60 of the best young talents in world soccer. Busio is one of two MLS players on the annual list alongside the LA Galaxy’s Efrain Alvarez, while his only U.S. National Team counterpart included is Borussia Dortmund’s Gio Reyna. All players on the list are born in 2002.
3. Save of the Year
Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday that Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia is one of 16 finalists for MLS Save of the Year, presented by Allstate. Fan voting is open online at MLSsoccer.com through 11:59 p.m. PT on Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Melia recorded a career-high 111 saves in 2019, including three penalty stops, and earned his Save of the Year nomination on June 7 against Toronto FC. With the game scoreless in the 12th minute, Melia reacted quickly to keep out Eriq Zavaleta's header from the top of the six-yard box with a sprawling, two-handed stop to his right.
4. Successful Surgery
Sporting Kansas City defender Andreu Fontas underwent successful insertional Achilles tendon clean up and repair surgery on Monday morning. The procedure was performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kirk McCullough at the Kansas City Orthopaedic Institute. Fontas is expected to miss four to five months during his rehabilitation.
5. Winner Winner
Sporting Kansas City was recognized today as the winner of the 2019 Audi Fan Faceoff. The Sporting KC Academy will be awarded a $50,000 grand prize from Audi, in addition to the funds the club will receive from the Audi Goals Drive Progress initiative.
Starting on July 31, Major League Soccer and Audi launched the Audi Fan Faceoff by encouraging fans to celebrate goals scored by their team in MLS matches on Twitter and Instagram with a designated club hashtag. Sporting Kansas City supporters lifted Sporting atop the Audi Fan Faceoff standings as the club with the highest average number of fan posts per game.
6. Captain Fantastic
Sporting Kansas City center back Matt Besler has been named to Goal.com’s MLS Team of the Decade, announced on Wednesday. Besler is one of three defenders on the team, alongside Chad Marshall and Omar Gonzalez, as the Kansas City native led his side to unprecedented success by hoisting an MLS Cup (2013) and three U.S. Open Cups (2012, 2015, 2017) this decade.
7. Louisville Slugger
The Swope Park Rangers (6-18-8, 26 points) will travel east this weekend for their penultimate match of the 2019 USL Championship season, visiting two-time defending league champion Louisville City FC (15-8-9, 54 points) at 6 p.m. CT Saturday at Louisville Slugger Field. The Eastern Conference clash will stream live on ESPN Plus as the Rangers and Louisville lock horns in a rematch of the 2017 USL Cup Final, which saw the Kentucky outfit emerge victorious in a cagey 1-0 affair.
8. Roger's Ride
In the fifth episode of The Nutmeg Podcast with Josh Klingler of 610 Sports, veteran Sporting midfielder Roger Espinoza reflects on a storied career in which he has experienced the highs of multiple U.S. Open Cup titles, an FA Cup win and marquee international matches. He also sheds light on some of the lows, having lost a relegation battle in the English Premier League and become Major League Soccer's all-time leader in red cards.
9. Holden Talks BS
Episode 18 of BS The Podcast debuted Wednesday as Sporting midfielder Benny Feilhaber and Sal Zizzo welcomed Stu Holden, a former United States Men's National Team member and a current color commentator for FOX Sports. Now considered one of the best analysts in the sport, Holden joins the gang to talk about his biggest moments as a player and commentator, his opinions on MLS individual awards and what actually happened with the "Plane Bae" story that went viral last year.
10. Paint on the Pitch
On Saturday, Sporting Club Events will host its inaugural Paint On The Pitch at Children’s Mercy Park from 5-8 p.m. CT. The interactive event features a two-hour painting class on the field, including two drink tickets, followed by a Sporting KC locker room tour. To purchase tickets, click here. Event parking will be available on the Toyota Plaza, located at the West Gate on the corner of Sporting Way and Village West Parkway.
11. GA Cup
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.