Starting XI: Holiday Cheer

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. Know the Foes

Hungarian defender Botond Barath and Scottish forward Johnny Russell learned their potential group stage opponents at next summer’s UEFA Euro 2020 during the official tournament draw on Saturday in Bucharest, Romania. The draw divided 24 teams into six groups of four and finalized the group stage schedule for the competition, which will unfold in 12 different cities across 12 different European countries between June 12 and July 12, 2020.

2. Jersey Sale

Hoping to get your mitts on a Sporting Kansas City jersey during the holiday season? There is no better time to do exactly that. Between Monday and Saturday, Dec. 2-7, the SportingStyle Pop-In Store at Children's Mercy Park is offering 25% off and free customization on all full-priced jerseys. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT, the Pop-In Store is located inside the Budweiser Brew House on the northeast side of the stadium and serves as supporters' one-stop shop for all Sporting gear.

3. Copa Rayados

Three Sporting Kansas City Academy teams spent Thanksgiving Weekend competing at the 2019 Copa Rayados Internacional tournament at Bear Branch Sportsplex in The Woodlands, Texas. The Sporting KC U-13s, U-14s and U-15s all delivered solid performances at the prestigious youth tournament, which featured some of the top professional and amateur youth academies from the United States and Mexico.

4. Off to Florida

While Sporting Kansas City's younger teams enjoy a holiday break, the U-17s and U-19s are set to visit Premier Sports Campus in Bradenton, Florida, from Wednesday to Sunday. 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. Follow @SKCAcademy on Twitter for live updates throughout the week and all season long.

5. Brilliant Busio

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio is one of five finalists for the 2019 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year. U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday the nominees for the 2019 Young Male, Young Female and Player of the Year with a Disability awards. Voting for the candidates began today and will close on Dec. 6, with the winner to be announced during the second week of December.

6. Bar K

Sporting Kansas City and Bar K have announced a new, multifaceted partnership that will create unique and interactive experiences for fans of all ages beginning in 2020. Located at Berkley Riverfront Park in Kansas City, Missouri, Bar K is a one-of-a-kind destination featuring a restaurant, bar and coffeehouse surrounded by a two-acre dog park with play structures, comfortable seating areas and a dedicated staff of dog-care professionals. Click here for more details about the partnership.

7. A New Keeper

Sporting Kansas City announced last week that the club has selected former Chicago Fire goalkeeper Richard Sanchez in Stage 1 of the 2019 MLS Re-Entry Draft. At age 25, Sanchez already has nine seasons of professional experience under his belt after developing in the FC Dallas Academy and competing in the United States and Mexico. He has spent the last three seasons in MLS with the Chicago Fire, where he totaled 90 saves across 27 league appearances. Stage 2 of the 2019 MLS Re-Entry Draft will take place Tuesday at 2 p.m. CT.

8. Rising Stars

MLSsoccer.com's annual ranking showcasing the top young players in MLS returns on Tuesday. The series will once again count down the top 22 players under the age of 22, as voted on by an expert panel. The top 22 players in MLS under the age of 22 as of the end of the 2019 regular season (i.e. 21 or younger before Oct. 6), will be revealed on Tuesday via Twitter (Nos. 11-22) and Wednesday (Nos. 1-10). The top 10 reveal on Wednesday will take place on the 22 Under 22 Top 10 reveal show at 1 p.m. CT. 

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. 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.

11. MLS Turns 25

The year 2020 will bring Major League Soccer's 25th season and with that, a year-long celebration of the league for a new North America. The video above provides a glimpse of where we've been and what's ahead.

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