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
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. Tickets Available
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. Alekzandur Returns
Sporting Kansas City’s first eMLS player has sealed a return to his hometown club. Christian Alexander Garcia, internationally known by his gamer tag Alekzandur, has signed as Sporting’s official eMLS competitor for the 2020 season. Alekzandur, who previously represented Sporting on the eMLS circuit in 2018, will be back in Sporting blue for national and global EA Sports FIFA 20 events throughout the 2020 campaign.
4. Blanket Bonanza
When the weather outside is frightful, those Sporting Kansas City blankets become vital to staying warm throughout the frigid winter. And that brings us to the next great deal of the holiday season. On Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 9-10, Sporting fans can shop the SportingStyle Pop-In Store to get 50 percent off all full-priced blankets.
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. Can't make it to the stadium? Orders can also be placed by emailing Stylist@SportingKC.com or calling 913-912-7563.
5. Cup Anniversary
Six years ago Saturday, dreams came true in Sporting blue. On Dec. 7, 2013, Sporting Kansas City lifted their second MLS Cup championship at the expense of rivals Real Salt Lake. In one of the most iconic matches in Major League Soccer history, Manager Peter Vermes' men prevailed in a 10-round penalty shootout following a tense 1-1 draw in which Alvaro Saborio and Aurelien Collin traded second-half goals. This unforgettable battle dripped with drama from beginning to end amidst frigid temperatures at Children’s Mercy Park, culminating with a wild series of penalties that took place in front of the Cauldron.
6. Sweet Seventeens
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-17s finished atop Group H of the DA Winter Cup this weekend to clinch a spot in the Development Academy Spring Cup Championship, which will take place in spring 2020. Head coach Rumba Munthali’s men were slotted into Group H and navigated a three-game schedule unbeaten, drawing Baltimore Armour and Real Salt Lake before claiming a dramatic win over Florida club Weston FC on Sunday to finish atop the group.
7. Hey Nineteen
The Sporting Kansas City Academy U-19s ended the fall portion of the 2019-20 Development Academy season on a high note, earning two wins and a draw in three friendly matches this week in Bradenton, Florida. The U-19s were one of three Sporting KC Academy teams in action at Premier Sports Campus as the inaugural DA Winter Cup took place in conjunction with several warm-weather friendlies between academy clubs from across the United States.
8. Puncec Plucked
Sporting Kansas City has signed 28-year-old Croatian defender Roberto Puncec, the club announced last week. 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.
9. Busio Ranked 10th
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio last week 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.
10. 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
11. 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.