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. Homegrown Twitch
Sporting Kansas City defender Jaylin Lindsey will join club commentator and sideline reporter Carter Augustine in a FIFA 20 Twitch stream tonight at 7 p.m. CT. Supporters can watch the live stream by visiting twitch.tv/eSportingKC as Lindsey and Augustine attempt to progress from Division 9 to Division 8 in the world's most popular soccer video game on PlayStation 4.
Throughout the live stream, Lindsey and Augustine will discuss a wide variety of topics on and off the pitch. Twitch viewers who submit questions will be entered for the chance to win a free copy of FIFA 20 signed by the 19-year-old Sporting Kansas City Academy product himself.
2. Timmy Terrific
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. 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.
3. Zusi a Best-Seller
For the sixth consecutive season, Sporting Kansas City defender Graham Zusi finds himself on the list of best-selling adidas jerseys in Major League Soccer. The annual rankings are based on overall retail sales of adidas MLS jerseys on MLSstore.com between the start of 2019 and the end of the 2019 MLS regular season. Zusi’s kit ranked 24th in sales this season, making him the only player to appear in the top 25 list of best-selling jerseys every year since 2014.
4. Johnny on the Pod
BS The Podcast dropped its penultimate episode of 2019 on Wednesday as Benny Feilhaber and Sal Zizzo welcomed Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell, one of Major League Soccer's premier attacking players over the last two seasons.
Fresh off representing the Scotland Men's National Team in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying, Russell joins the gang for a banter-filled discussion about his move from Derby to Sporting, how he pronounces certain English words in his thick Scottish brogue, who he thinks is poised for a strong bounce-back year in 2020, and his most memorable moments in Kansas City thus far.
5. Nico Faces Italy
Sporting Kansas City defender Nico Hasler collected his 65th career cap for the Liechtenstein Men's National Team on Tuesday, playing 90 minutes in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying loss to Italy at Rheinpark Stadion in Vaduz. Three days after leading his country to a spirited 1-1 home draw with Armenia, Hasler landed another start in an attacking midfield position against a formidable Italian side that had already clinched first place in Group J
6. Running Down a Dream
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio has joined the United States U-17 Men's National Team 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).
7. Closing the Curtains
The Swope Park Rangers (6-20-8, 26 points) ended their 2019 season with a 2-1 loss to Indy Eleven (19-9-6, 63 points) at Lucas Oil Stadium on Wednesday night. Rangers striker Wilson Harris notched his team-leading 12th goal of the season, but playoff-bound Indy Eleven emerged victorious behind a brace from former SPR striker Dane Kelly.
8. GA Cup-date
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-15s and U-17s concluded the opening round of 2019-20 Generation adidas Cup qualifying on Monday at Swope Soccer Village with a pair of closely contested matches against the San Jose Earthquakes. The U-15s prevailed in a dramatic penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in regulation and now sit atop the Group B standings in a three-way tie for first place. The U17s fell 1-0 on a first half penalty kick converted by San Jose Earthquakes first team forward Cade Cowell.
9. Fifty Grand
Sporting Kansas City was recognized last week 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.
10. The Playoffs are Back
The Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs will kick off this weekend as six matches unfold in Round One. While LAFC and New York City FC, the top-seeded teams in the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively, receive a Round One bye, 12 other clubs will take the field in a newly formatted playoff system that will feature single-elimination contests through MLS Cup on Nov. 10.
- Saturday, Oct. 19: (2) Atlanta United FC vs. (7) New England Revolution (12 p.m. CT | Univision)
- Saturday, Oct. 19: (2) Seattle Sounders FC vs. (7) FC Dallas (2:30 p.m. CT | FS1)
- Saturday, Oct. 19: (4) Toronto FC vs. (5) D.C. United (5 p.m. CT | TUDN)
- Saturday, Oct. 19: (3) Real Salt Lake vs. (6) Portland Timbers (9 p.m. CT | ESPNews)
- Sunday, Oct. 20: (3) Philadelphia Union vs. (6) New York Red Bulls (2 p.m. CT | FS1)
- Sunday, Oct. 20: (4) Minnesota United FC vs. (5) LA Galaxy (7:30 p.m. CT | ESPN)
11. MLS to Sacramento?
Sacramento Republic FC has scheduled "a major soccer announcement" for Monday, with a Sacramento Bee report connecting the news to the team’s Major League Soccer expansion bid. Sacramento community leaders and investors have been striving for five years to join MLS. The league's Board of Governors in April voted to authorize the Commissioner's office to conduct advance discussions with Sacramento and St. Louis ownership groups regarding their bids. The St. Louis bid was awarded MLS's 28th club in August.