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. Stars and Stripes
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 Cup campaign in Group D, facing Senegal this Sunday (2:50 p.m. CT; FS1, Telemundo) before battling Japan on Wednesday, Oct. 30 (5:50 p.m. CT; FS2, Universo) and finishing the group stage on Saturday, Nov. 2 vs. Netherlands (5:50 p.m. CT; FS2, Universo).
2. That's a Wrap
Five years after starring in the smash-hit YouTube series The Benny Feilhaber Show, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber and former teammate Sal Zizzo returned this season with the critically acclaimed BS The Podcast. Feilhaber hosted 20 episodes over the course of the podcast's first season in 2019, the last of which dropped Wednesday when MLS veteran Mike Magee joined the gang. Click here to get caught up on the full catalog of BS The Podcast, including a can't-miss Episode 19 that saw Sporting winger Johnny Russell steal the show.
3. Keep Calm and Kerry On
Through his playing days with the Wizards and into his assistant coaching tenure at Sporting, no one over the last two decades has been more involved with Kansas City’s MLS club than Kerry Zavagnin. An integral midfielder from 2000-2008 and an assistant since 2009, Zavagnin has spent the last 20 MLS seasons in Kansas City, amassing two MLS Cups, four U.S. Open Cups and an MLS Supporters’ Shield title as either a player or a coach. For those keeping track, that’s every single honor the club has earned.
Zavagnin was the guest for Episode 6 of The Nutmeg Podcast, joining host Josh Klingler on 610 Sports Radio to reflect on his friendship with manager Peter Vermes, discuss a critical evaluation period following the disappointment of 2019, and how Sporting plans to get back to the MLS pinnacle.
4. Welcoming Sac Town
Marking the culmination of a journey that began more than five years ago, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber officially announced Monday that Major League Soccer has awarded an expansion team to California’s capital city, Sacramento. Sacramento Republic FC will begin play in MLS in 2022 and will build a new, $300 million, 20,100-seat soccer stadium in the downtown Railyards District. The stadium will be a centerpiece of a redevelopment project that will include housing, retail, theaters, parks, museums, a hotel and a major medical center.
5. Academy in Action
While the Sporting Kansas City Academy U-19s have this weekend off, the U-15s and U-17s will continue their regular season campaign on Saturday against Rio Grande Valley FC Toros at Swope Soccer Village. The U-15s will kick off at 10 a.m. CT and the U-17s will take the field at noon CT. Both games will be free and open to the public, and fans can follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates.
6. Toronto Topples NYCFC
The top seed in the Eastern Conference was ousted Wednesday night as Toronto FC defeated New York City FC by a 2-1 scoreline in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Alejandro Pozuelo scored twice in the second half to pace the Reds, who have booked a spot in next Wednesday's Eastern Conference Final.
7. Atlanta Hosts Philly
As the No. 4 seed in the East, Toronto will learn their conference final opponent tonight when second-seeded Atlanta United FC hosts third-seeded Philadelphia Union at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Atlanta are seeking a second consecutive MLS Cup title, while the Union are plenty high on confidence themselves after claiming a wild 4-3 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday afternoon. The winner of tonight's contest will host TFC next Wednesday.
8. Sounders Sink RSL
Seattle Sounders FC won their 11th straight home playoff game on Wednesday night, posting a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake behind second-half goals from Gustav Svensson and Nico Lodeiro. The Sounders will now prepare for next Tuesday's Western Conference Final, where they will either visit top-seeded LAFC or host No. 5 seed LA Galaxy.
9. Hollywood Show
LA Galaxy's 2-0 road win over Minnesota on Sunday gave MLS fans across the globe the matchup they so desperately desired: Round Three of El Trafico at Bank of California Stadium tonight at 9:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. In what might be the most hyped game in MLS history, MLS MVP frontrunner Carlos Vela and Supporters' Shield champion LAFC will welcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy for a true Hollywood spectacle. LAFC enjoyed one of the best regular seasons of all-time in 2019, but they have yet to beat their crosstown neighbors in five attempts.
10. Euro Trip
Sporting Kansas City Academy U-15 forward Gage Akalu and forward Nati Clarke have joined the United States U-15 Boys’ National Team in Poland for a UEFA Development Tournament that will run through Saturday. Akalu and Clarke are among 20 players on the roster—all of whom were born in 2005—as the United States prepares to face international competition under serving head coach Steve Klein, the Academy Director at U.S. Soccer Development Academy club PA Classics.
11. Save the Dates
Major League Soccer has announced the dates and details for the 2019 postseason roster mechanisms as current MLS clubs and MLS expansion clubs alike make crucial decisions about their 2020 rosters. On Nov. 19, the 2019 Expansion Draft will consist of Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC selecting five players each from the eligible player list. Following the Expansion Draft, clubs will have an additional two days to make final determinations on their rosters prior to a Nov. 21 option exercise deadline. On Nov. 22, MLS Communications will release the list of players eligible for each of the postseason roster mechanisms, including the End-of-Year Waivers, Free Agency and the Re-Entry Process.