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. Roaring Twenties
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 faces a blank slate and an opportunity to build on past successes. 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.
2. Relive the Glory
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 this epic chapter ends and the page turns to 2020, SportingKC.com has counted down the top 20 moments of the decade. The series looks 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.
3. Player of the Decade
During a transformational decade full of championship victories, team accolades, individual breakthroughs and momentous developments off the pitch, Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler was there every step of the way. From painting the wall at Children’s Mercy Park to representing the U.S. Men’s National Team, from earning Defender of the Year honors to anchoring the backline in cup finals, Besler played an instrumental role in his hometown club’s success throughout the 2010s. MLSsoccer.com recognized Besler for his heroic contributions this week, with Greg Seltzer tabbing him Sporting Kansas City’s player of the decade.
4. Sun Cup
Sporting Kansas City will compete in the Visit Tucson Sun Cup as part of the club’s 2020 preseason, presented by Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine. Phoenix Rising FC (USL Championship) and FC Tucson (USL League One) announced today the participants for MLS Preseason in Arizona and the 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson.
The 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup will feature a six-team field of Sporting, Rising FC, Columbus Crew SC, Houston Dynamo, New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake. The tournament will run from Feb. 15-22, leading up to Sporting’s MLS regular season opener at Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Feb. 29.
5. Dressed to the Nines
Peter Vermes is the most successful Sporting Kansas City manager all-time and one of the winningest coaches in MLS history. He's also one of the best-dressed bosses in the business. MLSsoccer.com listed its best-dressed MLS coaches of 2019 on Tuesday, ranking Vermes at No. 2 only behind Toronto FC's Greg Vanney.
6. Hear from the President
This offseason has been a bit different from the norm for Sporting Kansas City, prompting the front office to be proactive as a new decade begins. And with the 2020 campaign fast approaching, fans have more than a few things to be excited about as Children's Mercy Park prepares to up the ante on its matchday experience. These are the prevailing themes in a new episode of The Nutmeg Podcast, which treats listeners to a detailed discussion between 610 Sports Radio host Josh Klingler and Sporting Kansas City President and CEO Jake Reid.
7. Captain's Surprise
He may not have been Santa Claus, but for four local recipients of the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan award, Sporting Kansas City captain Matt Besler was the next best thing. At the end of 2019, Besler visited a quartet of local elementary and middle schools for surprise visits to teachers who were named Blue KC Sporting Samaritans throughout the year.
8. Good Samaritans
Sporting and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City will once again team up throughout 2020 to recognize Blue KC Sporting Samaritans, honoring students and teachers for their praiseworthy roles in the community. Once a month, a Samaritan will be recognized on the pitch at Children's Mercy Park before a Sporting home match. The Samaritan and a limited number of guests will receive a behind-the-scenes VIP experience with a wide variety of all-inclusive perks. Supporters can nominate members of their community to be the next Blue KC Sporting Samaritan at SportingKC.com/BlueKC.
9. Class of Their Own
Major League Soccer has announced the crop of four standout underclassmen that comprise the 2020 Generation adidas class and the two pre-signed seniors eligible for selection in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas on Jan. 9.
10. Get Caught Up
We get it. The holidays can be a busy time of year. But the Major League Soccer news cycle doesn’t pause. Quite the opposite, in fact. Mindful of that, here are MLSsoccer.com's 10 most important storylines you might have missed as we rang in 2020.
11. Soccer Almanac
A new year – and a new decade! – is at hand, and 2020 is shaping up as a big one across North American soccer. Here are all the key dates to mark on your calendar, courtesy of MLSsoccer.com's 2020 Soccer Almanac.