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. Exercised and Declined
Sporting Kansas City announced today that the club has exercised contract options on the following five players ahead of the 2020 MLS season: goalkeeper Eric Dick, defender Graham Smith and forwards Gerso Fernandes, Erik Hurtado and Daniel Salloi.
Sporting has declined contract options for defender Seth Sinovic and midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Gedion Zelalem. Forward Krisztian Nemeth and defenders Nico Hasler and Rodney Wallace are also out of contract with the club.
2. Class Act
Since the turn of the decade, few teams in Major League Soccer have experienced as much on-field success as Sporting Kansas City. And during that time, few players have been more synonymous with the club’s trophy-laden run than left back and Kansas City native Seth Sinovic. The end of Sinovic’s stint with Sporting will resonate strongly in Kansas City soccer circles, as his contributions over the last several years helped Manager Peter Vermes’ side remain a perennial title contender in MLS.
3. The Best of Benny
One of Sporting Kansas City's all-time greats has ended his second stint with the club. Veteran midfielder Benny Feilhaber was among the players whose contract options were declined on Thursday, meaning the 34-year-old won't return to Sporting in 2020. SportingKC.com has compiled a collection of Feilhaber's best goals with Sporting, so grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the unforgettable memories.
4. Duo Departs
Sporting Kansas City announced Tuesday that the club has acquired $125,000 in 2020 Targeted Allocation Money, $50,000 in 2020 General Allocation Money and an international roster spot for the 2020 season from MLS expansion club Nashville SC in exchange for goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas. Additionally, Nashville SC selected Sporting Kansas City midfielder Jimmy Medranda with the 10th and final pick of the 2019 MLS Expansion Draft on Tuesday afternoon.
5. Welcome to WinterFest
Worlds of Fun and Sporting are teaming up this holiday season with a new charitable partnership. During WinterFest, the Kansas City amusement park is raising awareness and funds in support of The Victory Project, the club’s foundation that unites players, staff and fans to help children battling cancer and all of life’s challenges. Throughout WinterFest, guests will be able to “Kick to Victory” in Worlds of Fun’s new soccer-themed game near the entrance of Planet Snoopy, where 100% of the proceeds will go towards the cause. The park is also accepting donations from guests in the park and through any online ticket purchases.
6. MLS vs. Liga MX
The 2020 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target will feature a first-of-its-kind summer showdown: The MLS All-Stars will face the Liga MX All-Stars on July 29 at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. The match, one of the marquee events in the league's 25th season, will be broadcast on ESPN and Univision networks in the US, TSN and TVA Sports in Canada, as well as on ESPN throughout Mexico and Latin America.
7. Hungary Falls
Sporting Kansas City defender Botond Barath and the Hungary Men's National Team fell just short of automatic qualification to UEFA Euro 2020 with a 2-0 road defeat to Wales on Tuesday at Cardiff City Stadium. Hungary entered the Group E finale occupying second place, but Tuesday's setback saw Wales supplant the Magyars and join Croatia as automatic qualifiers to UEFA Euro 2020 next summer.
Hungary finishes in fourth place in Group E with the result, but hope isn't lost on advancing to next summer's Euro tournament. The Magyars have now been placed into the Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs, which will take place during the March FIFA window next spring. The playoffs draw will take place Friday.
Sporting Kansas City Academy U-19 players Jake Davis and Tucker Lepley (pictured above), along with Sporting Kansas City Academy U-17 goalkeeper Gavin Krenecki were named United Soccer Coaches Youth All-Americans on Tuesday. In addition, Sporting Kansas City Academy U-17 players Osvaldo Cisneros and Rokas Pukstas were named to the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Youth Boys All-Central Region Team.
9. Freeman's Title
Sporting Kansas City forward Tyler Freeman and the United States U-16 Boys' National Team claimed the 2019 Nike International Friendlies title on Monday with a wild 3-2 victory over Turkey at the Premier Sports Campus in Bradenton, Florida. Making his third appearance of the tournament, Freeman entered as a 55th-minute substitute with the Americans leading 2-1 and helped his side to an exciting win that sealed first place in the four-team field. The 16-year-old had previously started in the U-16 BNT's 3-3 draw with the Netherlands last Thursday before coming off the bench in Saturday's impressive 2-0 triumph over the USA U-16s.
10. eMLS Cup Details
eMLS announced Monday its competitive schedule for 2020, which will be headlined by eMLS Cup presented by PlayStation during the second weekend of SXSW in Austin, Texas. This announcement comes on the heels of the highly anticipated global release of EA SPORTS FIFA 20. The 2020 eMLS season will feature 25 eMLS players, each representing different MLS clubs, in a quest to be crowned the best EA SPORTS FIFA 20 player in North America. Three clubs are new to eMLS this season with LAFC, Austin FC and Nashville SC joining the circuit.
11. The Truce
In celebration of a long-standing Boxing Day tradition, the National World War I Museum, The Soccer Lot and Sporting Kansas City will host the seventh annual Truce 3v3 Soccer Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 26, with festivities beginning at 8 a.m. CT.