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 and read below for the final edition of 2019.
1. Schedule Drops
Sporting Kansas City unveiled today the club’s 34-game schedule for the 2020 MLS regular season, which will kick off with a trip to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Feb. 29 and conclude with a Decision Day home clash against New York City FC on Oct. 4 at Children’s Mercy Park.
2. Join the Family
The best way to guarantee tickets for 2020 home matches 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 limited-time Holiday Pack that bundles the home opener versus Houston Dynamo on March 7 with two flex matches and a Sporting scarf. Single-game tickets for the first half of Sporting’s home schedule will go on sale to the general public in early 2020.
Sporting’s fan-friendly home slate—consisting of 13 Saturday matches, three Sunday games and only one Wednesday fixture—will once again feature a variety of exciting promotions and theme nights, including the return of Retro Night, Sporting Salutes, Sporting Legends, Kick Childhood Cancer Night and more. For further details about current ticket promotions, click here.
3. A "Spirited" Partnership
Kansas City distillery J. Rieger & Co. and the MLS soccer stars at Sporting Kansas City are joining forces to celebrate their “love of the city.” As of December 2019, the two hometown favorites have an exciting new partnership in play encompassing specialty bottlings, cocktails and events at the J. Rieger & Co. distillery, Children’s Mercy Park and other local venues. Scheduled to debut with the 2020 Sporting season, Rieger’s products will be served at Children’s Mercy Park during matches and at private events in the suite levels, Shield Club and additional concession locations at the stadium.
4. The Best of the Decade
Over the last 10 years, few professional sports franchises have experienced a more transformational journey than Sporting Kansas City. From Wizards to Sporting, from minor league baseball park to world-class soccer stadium, from MLS afterthought to perennial title contender, the 2010s ushered in a Kansas City soccer renaissance as Sporting enjoyed a meteoric rise both on and off the pitch.
Throughout this decade of success, everyone tied to the club—from players and coaches to owners and fans—made priceless memories that will last a lifetime. As the 2010s come to a close, SportingKC.com is counting down the top 20 moments of the decade. The daily series will run from Dec. 12-31, looking back on the biggest matches, announcements and off-the-field developments that left lasting impacts on the club. The top 20 list was determined through voting among front office associates at Sporting. Click here to visit the top 20 as it unfolds.
5. Save on Sporting
Need to knock out some last-minute holiday shopping? SportingStyle has you covered with one final sale before the new year. From Dec. 20-24, fans can get 20% off their entire purchase at the SportingStyle Pop-In Store, located inside the Budweiser Brew House at Children's Mercy Park.
The Pop-In Store will be open Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT, during which time supporters can save big on all available Sporting gear. Can't make it to the Pop-In Store before Christmas Eve? Shoppers can also call 913-912-7563 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make their purchases. All orders over $50 will ship for free.
6. MLS to Charlotte
MLS Commissioner Don Garber officially announced Wednesday that Major League Soccer has awarded an expansion team to Charlotte, North Carolina – one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. MLS’ club for the Carolinas will be owned by Carolina Panthers (NFL) owner David Tepper and begin play in the 2021 season at Bank of America Stadium.
The addition of Charlotte (21st) gives MLS teams in 19 of the top 23 media markets in the country as ranked by Nielsen for 2020. It also increases MLS’ geographic footprint in the Southeast, with current clubs in Atlanta and Orlando, and teams in Miami and Nashville beginning play next season. The four-hour drive between Charlotte and Atlanta will spark an “I-85 Derby.” Charlotte is one of North America’s cities on the rise – its population has nearly doubled in size to 2.6 million people since the year 2000 – and is regarded as a top market for the finance, tech, healthcare and energy sectors.
7. Open Cup-date
Sporting Kansas City will kick off its 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup campaign next April, entering in the Third Round of U.S. Soccer's National Championship. U.S. Soccer announced last week its first major restructuring of the U.S. Open Cup since 2012. In a significant move, the competition format for 2020 will require 11 MLS clubs—including Sporting Kansas City—to enter in the Third Round, one round earlier than in recent years. This change will see Sporting play up to six Open Cup matches in 2020, should they reach the Final.
8. SuperDraft Switch
Major League Soccer has announced details for the 2020 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas, which is evolving with a new streamlined draft process and innovative opportunities for fans to engage with media partners ESPN and Twitter. The 2020 SuperDraft, scheduled for Jan. 9 at 11 a.m. CT, will be conducted during a jointly produced MLS and ESPN show streamed live on Twitter, with a Twitter event card that includes the draft livestream and real-time highlights from the event all in one comprehensive experience.
9. Gamers Unveiled
Major League Soccer has released its eMLS roster for the 2020 season, consisting of players representing 25 MLS clubs. In total, 12 of the 25 gamers signed for the 2020 eMLS season currently sit in the top 100 of their respective console leaderboards in the rankings released on Dec. 11.
eMLS is entering its third season, which will begin on Jan. 10, 2020 with eMLS League Series One presented by PlayStation in Philadelphia. That will be followed by League Series Two on Feb. 15 in Portland, and conclude with eMLS Cup on March 21 in Austin during SXSW. Each of the two League Series tournaments have their own prizes and a trophy on offer, and also allow players to accumulate points to determine seeding for eMLS Cup.
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.