Starting XI: Offseason's Greetings

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. Offseason's Greetings

The 2019 MLS End-of-Year Waiver Draft will take place on Monday at 2 p.m. CT, the first major opportunity clubs around the league will have to stockpile some new talent as the offseason gets underway in full force.

Teams will have an opportunity to select from the list of players below, who are eligible due to not meeting the minimum years of service requirement for the Re-Entry Draft or Free Agency. A full breakdown of the rules and procedure for the process can be found here.

2. Roster Moves

Sporting Kansas City announced last week 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.

3. Euro Foes

Sporting Kansas City defender Botond Barath and forward Johnny Russell learned their respective national teams' paths to a potential berth in the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament next summer after the playoff draw was conducted on Friday. Only four nations will qualify via the playoffs, and those four will have to win two single-elimination matches on March 26 and March 31 next spring. 

Barath and Hungary will visit Bulgaria in the semifinals at Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia. Should the Magyars win, they would host the winner between Iceland and Romania five days later. Russell and Scotland, meanwhile, will host Israel in the semifinals at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Should they prevail, they would visit either Norway or Serbia.

4. Sporting II Scoop

Sporting Kansas City II will return seven players for the 2020 USL Championship season. The club has exercised the contract option on midfielder Camden Riley, and he joins six players that remain under contract with the club. Joining Riley on the 2020 roster are goalkeepers John Pulskamp and Brooks Thompson, defender Luis Olivera, midfielder Will Little and forwards Wilson Harris and Ze Pedro.

5. Calling Kuzain

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Wan Kuzain trained with the Malaysia U-22 Men’s National Team last week, participating in a 32-player camp ahead of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines. Born to Malaysian parents in Carbondale, Illinois, Kuzain has joined Malaysia at the international level for the first time after previously training with the United States U-17 Men's National Team in 2013 and 2014.

Kuzain, 21, was not eligible to compete in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games because of citizenship documentation reasons, but his first experience with Malaysia sets the stage for potential national team endeavors with the Malayan Tigers in the future.

6. Hey Nineteen

The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-19s (3-0-3, 12 points) continued their unbeaten start to the 2019-20 U.S. Soccer Development Academy regular season with a thrilling 3-2 road victory over the Houston Dynamo (0-4-0, 0 points) on Saturday morning at Houston Sports Park. Led by head coach Rumba Munthali, the Sporting KC U-19s came from behind twice in a delicately poised battle before striking late to complete the fightback. Second-half goals from Josh Chong, Clarence Weah and Enzo Mauriz helped Sporting emerge with all three points in the team’s final regular season fixture of 2019.

7. Holiday Tournaments

A busy holiday period beckons for all six Sporting KC Academy teams at the U-12 through U-19 levels. The U-13s, U-14s and U-15s will spend Thanksgiving in Houston, competing at the annual Copa Rayados tournament from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, while the U-12s will travel to Atlanta for the Generation adidas Cup from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

The following week, the Sporting KC U-17s and U-19s will visit Premier Sports Campus in Bradenton, Florida, between Dec. 4-8. The U-17s will battle in Group H of the inaugural DA Winter Cup, facing Baltimore Armour, Real Salt Lake and Florida club Weston FC. The U-19s, meanwhile, will play friendly matches against Atlanta United FC, Sacramento Republic FC and D.C. United.

8. Combatting Climate Change

Sporting Kansas City is trying to do their part to help combat climate change. The club gave a presentation this week at the Sustainable Agriculture Summit in Indianapolis on Wednesday, going over the steps they've implemented to recycle the excess food waste that accumulates at their home matches. Check out the whole breakdown on NPR of Sporting's presentation at the Sustainable Agriculture Summit and how they plan on continuing the Sporting Sustainability program.

9. 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.

10. eMLS Cup Details

eMLS has announced 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.

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