Happy New Year! Here are 20 reasons to be excited for Sporting's 2020 season

With the new year comes a new decade, and as the calendar keenly turns to 2020, clubs across Major League Soccer hold optimism that the 20s will roar. The league itself is also entrenched in palpable excitement, having blossomed over the last 10 years with an ever-improving product on the pitch and in the stands.

By and large, the 2010s treated Sporting Kansas City remarkably well. Under the guidance of Manager Peter Vermes and backed by a fervent fanbase at electric Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting experienced a slew of euphoric highs—as chronicled in SportingKC.com’s Top 20 Moments of the Decade—and painted the wall on four occasions thanks to winning the 2013 MLS Cup and a treble of Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles.

Now that this prosperous chapter has ended, Sporting—and MLS as a whole—face a blank slate, an opportunity to build on past successes and take even greater strides forward. Forecasting the 2020s in their entirety is impossible, but looking ahead to the next 12 months is a far more manageable exercise.

On that note, Sporting fans have plenty to be excited about as the club prepares for 2020. In fact, we can rattle off exactly 20 reasons that supporters should be licking their chops for next season.

1. Ticket Packages

Single-game Sporting tickets will go on sale very soon, but fans don’t have to wait until then to secure their seats at Children’s Mercy Park. A variety of multi-game ticket packages are now available, including the limited-time Holiday Pack that bundles Sporting’s home opener against Houston on March 7 with two additional flex matches. Click here for more information.

2. Theme Nights

The new season will once again feature a variety of exciting theme nights, including the return of Retro Night, Sporting Salutes, Sporting Legends, Kick Childhood Cancer Night and more. The full theme night schedule is listed below and subject to change.

  • March 7 vs. Houston Dynamo — Opening Night
  • April 18 vs. Colorado Rapids — Sporting Sustainability & Royals Night
  • May 23 vs. Seattle Sounders FC — Soccer For All
  • June 20 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC — Sporting Legends & Media Match
  • July 5 vs. LAFC — Americana & Fourth of July
  • Aug. 15 vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Retro Night
  • Aug. 29 vs. Columbus Crew SC — Sporting Salutes
  • Sept. 19 vs. Nashville SC — Kick Childhood Cancer Night

3. Alan Pulido

In mid-December, Sporting dropped a club-record transfer fee to acquire 28-year-old Mexican striker Alan Pulido from Mexican side C.D. Guadalajara. Arriving in Kansas City as one of the most heralded signings in club history, Pulido boasts a decade of big-game experience, trophy-laden success and an overall track record that has Vermes believing he “embodies all of the attributes we value at our club.” The reigning Liga MX scoring champion netted 12 goals for Chivas last fall, and with over 100 career goals for club and country, his attacking pedigree is undeniable.

4. Other Newcomers

A bevvy of other fresh faces will arrive in Kansas City hoping to leave their mark, including Croatian center back Roberto Puncec and MLS veteran forward Khiry Shelton, who spent 2019 with German side SC Paderborn 07 after helping Sporting finish atop the Western Conference in 2018. Additional roster moves are likely on the way as Sporting preps for the start of preseason later this month.

5. Veteran Core Returns

It’s no secret that Matt Besler, Roger Espinoza, Tim Melia and Graham Zusi have reached the twilight of their playing careers. But this veteran core enters 2020 with as much motivation as ever to prove that Sporting are here to stay as a title challenger. Besler and Zusi, in particular, have long served as the handsome faces of Sporting—hugely influential and iconic figures during the club’s meteoric rise throughout the 2010s. Their tale is a special one, and together they will want to write a brilliant final few chapters.

6. Continued Homegrown Development

U.S. youth international Gianluca Busio was the frontrunner of Sporting’s Homegrown movement in 2019, breaking through at the MLS level and with the U.S. U-17s. The promising teenager will aim to take another big step in 2020, as will several other Academy products who have earned first-team contracts in recent years. That budding crop includes defender Jaylin Lindsey, forward Tyler Freeman and midfielders Cameron Duke, Felipe Hernandez and Wan Kuzain. The list of Sporting Homegrowns—which also features 2018 golden boot winner Daniel Salloi—could yet grow before the seasons begins.

7. More Local Partners

Sporting last month announced the launch of a partnership with J. Rieger & Co., a local distillery with a proud tradition of treating Kansas City to exceptional spirits. Without giving too much away, the club looks forward to announcing additional partnerships with local favorites as the year unfolds.

8. New Concessions

Food and beverage options available to all fans at Children’s Mercy Park will be new, improved and expanded. Sporting is enthused to reveal more exciting details in the coming weeks.

9. Technology Upgrades

Similarly, Children’s Mercy Park is set to undergo a series of technology upgrades that will enrich the fan experience on matchday. At the forefront, a brand-new mobile app will treat supporters to a vast array of unique benefits and offers like never before.

10. No Weekends Off

No days off? Not quite. No weekends off? Amen. A near-unprecedented schedule will see Sporting play every single weekend for 32 straight weeks, beginning with their Feb. 29 opener at Vancouver Whitecaps FC and ending with a Decision Day home clash against New York City FC on Oct. 4. Throw in two Wednesday contests, and Sporting fans will be absorbing non-stop MLS action from start to finish with zero bye weeks.

11. Saturday Surplus

Incredibly enough, 28 of Sporting’s 34 regular season matches will be played on Saturday. That includes 13 home fixtures at Children’s Mercy Park, making the 2020 slate as fan-friendly as ever.

12. Season Kickoff Party

Sporting always kicks of the new season in style, and this year will be no exception. Details about the club’s curtain-raising celebration will be announced in the near term.

13. New Secondary Jersey

An even-numbered year means Sporting will debut a new secondary jersey sometime before the club visits Vancouver on Feb. 29. The metallic black kit will be retired, paving the way for a new strip to complement Sporting’s primary jersey.

14. More Star Power in MLS

Over the last few seasons, mega-talents such as Carlos Vela, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron have helped elevate MLS to a new level. As “MLS 3.0” continues to take shape—a phrase Vermes uses to describe this new era of increased spending on international talent—we can safely assume that the league will only get better and better. With academies churning out young studs à la Busio and signing heralded players à la Pulido, expect plenty more stars to emerge.

15. New and Continued Rivalries

Continued battles with Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders FC and both Los Angeles clubs figure to be as compelling as ever. So, too, do inaugural meetings with Nashville SC. Sporting visits the Tennessee club on April 11 at Nissan Stadium before hosting the reverse fixture on Sept. 19. The other expansion team to enter MLS in 2020, Inter Miami CF, does not appear on Sporting’s regular season schedule.

16. More Open Cup Action

Due to not participating in the Concacaf Champions League or Leagues Cup, Sporting will be one of 11 MLS clubs to enter the 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the third round, one stage earlier than normal. This will require Vermes’ men to begin their Open Cup campaign in late April and play up to six matches in the knockout-style competition.

17. Convenient Roaddron Trips

Away matches against Minnesota United FC, Chicago Fire FC, the Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas and expansion side Nashville SC are all within an eight-hour drive of the Kansas City metro area. Better yet, each of these games will take place on a Saturday, giving fans the chance to make an entire weekend out of their Roaddron experience.

18. Away Watch Parties

Supporters unable to travel for road games will be afforded multiple watch party options throughout the year. No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District will remain a staple, as will other members of Sporting’s Pub Network. That includes the newest pub partner in Bar K, a dog-friendly restaurant, bar and entertainment space where fans can bring their pups and cheer on Sporting from the scenic Berkley Riverfront.

19. Year Five for Sporting KC II

Sporting Kansas City II is braced for its fifth year in the second-division USL Championship, including the third season under head coach and former Sporting midfielder Paulo Nagamura. Sporting II will once again feature an arsenal of young, rising talents cultivated in Sporting’s very own Academy, serving as the vital bridge to the first team. The team will play all 17 USL Championship home matches at world-class Children’s Mercy Park in 2020.

20. An Opportunity to Bounce Back

The 2019 campaign didn’t go as planned. A year that began with a historic demolition of Toluca and a Concacaf Champions League semifinal run spiraled into Sporting’s first losing season and playoff miss since 2010. The new year gives Sporting an opportunity to right the ship and return to their title-contending ways.