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. First Foes
Sporting Kansas City will host rivals Houston Dynamo on Saturday, March 7, in the club’s 2020 home opener at Children’s Mercy Park. The match will come one week after Sporting kicks off its MLS campaign at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday, Feb. 29—the earliest start to an MLS regular season in league history.
Sporting’s first two matches of 2020 season
- Saturday, Feb. 29: at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9:30 p.m. CT)
- Saturday, March 7: vs. Houston Dynamo (7:30 p.m. CT)
2. Get Tickets
The best way to guarantee tickets for the 2020 home opener at Children’s Mercy Park is to join the Sporting Kansas City family and become a Season Ticket Member. Several multi-game ticket packages for the 2020 season are also on sale now at SportingKC.com, including the “Mess with Texas” package that pairs the home opener versus Houston with Sporting’s home game against FC Dallas. Single-game tickets for the first half of Sporting’s home schedule will go on sale to the general public in early 2020.
3. Welcome, Roberto
Sporting Kansas City has signed 28-year-old Croatian defender Roberto Puncec, the club announced Wednesday. Puncec has amassed almost 300 professional appearances across 12 professional seasons in Croatia, Israel and Germany. The center back arrives at Sporting after spending the last two and a half seasons with Croatian first-division club HNK Rijeka, where he won the 2019 Croatian Cup this spring.
4. Busio Ranked 10th
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio on Wednesday was ranked No. 10 in MLSsoccer.com’s 22 Under 22, an annual series highlighting the best players in Major League Soccer under the age of 22.
A product of the Sporting Kansas City Academy, Busio enjoyed a breakout 2019 campaign highlighted by three goals and one assist in 22 MLS matches. The 17-year-old became the youngest player in MLS history to score in consecutive games, doing so in three straight fixtures from March 30 to April 14, and ended the season with 1,012 minutes played across 26 competitive appearances.
5. Peter on the Pod
The newest episode of The Nutmeg Podcast dropped Tuesday as host Josh Klingler caught up with Sporting Kansas City Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes. In a candid and wide-ranging conversation, Vermes reflected on a 2019 campaign that fell short of expectations and looked ahead to 2020, indicating that the club is very likely to add another defender, midfielder and forward before the new season kicks off.
6. Trade Windows
Several key MLS dates in 2020, including both the winter and summer MLS transfer windows, were officially released ahead of the new regular season, which kicks off on Feb. 29.
- Primary Transfer Window: Wednesday, Feb. 12 – Tuesday, May 5, 2020
- Secondary Transfer Window: Tuesday, July 7 – Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020
7. Conference Alignment
Less than three months remain until the 2020 MLS regular season officially kicks off, with two new expansion teams joining the league for an all-time high 26 clubs competing to reach 2020 MLS Cup. Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC will be in separate conferences for their debut season after the conference alignment was confirmed by the league for next year. Inter Miami join the East, while Nashville SC will compete in the West, ensuring both conferences will feature 13 clubs.
Each club will continue to play a 34-game regular season with 17 home matches and 17 away matches. Every team will play their 12 intra-conference opponents twice – once home and once away for a total of 24 matches – with the other 10 regular-season matches coming against the opposite conference. Those inter-conference opponents will be revealed with the full 2020 schedule release.
8. 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 now and Saturday, Dec. 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.
9. Hard Pass
Sporting Kansas City passed on its pick in Stage 2 of the 2019 MLS Re-Entry Draft on Tuesday afternoon. Two players were selected in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Process. FC Cincinnati selected former Seattle Sounders FC and Sporting KC defender Saad Abdul-Salaam, while Toronto FC selected former New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo.
10. 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.
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.