Starting XI: Nearing Liftoff

Starting XI is a biweekly series 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. BRGR Ready to Sizzle

Sporting Kansas City announced Wednesday a new partnership with BRGR Kitchen + Bar, marking the start of the largest concessions refresh since Children’s Mercy Park opened in 2011.

Locally renowned for its specialty burgers, BRGR will occupy the concession stand at section 129 of Children’s Mercy Park, offering a variety of fan-favorite menu items at every Sporting match. BRGR’s in-stadium menu will include signature burgers, traditional fries and tots, a premium chicken sandwich and the popular Beyond Burger, the first plant-based protein in the stadium.

2. Nearing Liftoff

The celebration of a new year—and a new decade—means that soccer season is just around the corner. With schedules released and several other high-profile events on tap, Sporting Kansas City fans can whip out their 2020 calendars and start scribbling in the dates. Supporters have already learned details for the club’s MLS opener and first home game, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. SportingKC.com has listed the calendar highlights of 2020 at this link, complete with all of the important dates you need to know.

3. Terrific Twosome

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Gianluca Busio and Sporting Kansas City II goalkeeper John Pulskamp have joined the United States U-20 Men’s National Team for a two-week training camp that began Tuesday and will run through Jan. 19 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

The domestic training camp will give Busio and Pulskamp their first U-20 experience, having previously represented the United States at various youth levels. Newly appointed U.S. U-20 head coach Anthony Hudson has assembled a squad of 24 players for the camp, highlighted by friendly matches against archrivals Mexico on Jan. 16 and 18.

4. Sun Cup Fixtures

Sporting Kansas City has learned its three opponents for the 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup, a preseason tournament in Arizona slated for Feb. 15-22 at Kino North Stadium in Tucson and Casino Arizona Field in Scottsdale. One of six clubs participating in the Visit Tucson Sun Cup, Sporting will face MLS rivals Real Salt Lake on Feb. 15 in Tucson, USL Championship side Phoenix Rising FC on Feb. 19 in Scottsdale, and the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 22 in Tucson.

5. Prized Pulido

Newly acquired Sporting Kansas City striker Alan Pulido has earned Liga MX Best XI honors for the 2019 Apertura season. Pulido, who joined Sporting on a club-record transfer fee in December, finished atop the Liga MX scoring charts with 12 goals for Chivas de Guadalajara during the fall Apertura campaign.

The 28-year-old Pulido lands Liga MX Best XI honors for the second time in his career, having previously done so at the conclusion of the 2017 spring season when he led Chivas to the Clausura title. He is one of three forwards on the 2019 Apertura Best XI alongside Necaxa striker Mauro Quiroga and Monterrey front man Rogelio Funes Mori, whose Monterrey side ousted Sporting last spring en route to the Concacaf Champions League title.

6. Opening at Home

Sporting Kansas City II will host Charlotte Independence in the club’s 2020 USL Championship season opener on Sunday, March 8 at 4 p.m. CT, the club announced Monday. For the second straight year, Sporting II is set to play every USL Championship home match at world-class Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Tickets for all home games will be available at SeatGeek.com at a later date. Additionally, Sporting Kansas City Season Ticket Members will once again have access to complimentary Sporting II tickets and can contact their Membership Services Executive for more information.

7. Christian Comes Home

Sporting Kansas City II has signed former captain and Kansas City native Christian Duke, the club announced Monday. Duke, a Sporting KC Academy product, captained the side to back-to-back Western Conference titles in 2016 and 2017 before spending the last two seasons with Orange County SC.

8. Sporting II Hires Hildebrandt

Sporting Kansas City II has hired former USL Goalkeeper of the Year Mitch Hildebrandt as the team’s goalkeeper coach, the club announced Wednesday. Hildebrandt, 31, enjoyed a seven-year playing career, culminating in an MLS Cup prior to his retirement in early 2019.

9. The 25th Season Celebration

Major League Soccer on Wednesday unveiled plans for its historic 25th Season Celebration in 2020. The Celebration will feature unique experiences, marquee events, robust content, innovative programming, and the special 25th Season commemorative design integrated throughout MLS and partner initiatives. The season will celebrate the League’s past, while expanding on the foundation it has built over an extensive period of explosive growth. In addition, MLS will welcome new clubs in Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC for the 2020 season.

10. SuperDraft

Tune in live at 11:30 a.m. CT for Round 1 of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas. The first two rounds of the draft will take place today, consisting of 52 total selections. Sporting Kansas City, which has zero draft picks in the first two rounds, currently holds the No. 58 overall selection in the third round and the No. 84 overall selection in the fourth. Rounds 3-4 will take place Monday, Jan. 13, via conference call. Fans can follow the MLSsoccer.com Draft Tracker for updates throughout the event.

11. Alekzandur in Action

The 2020 eMLS season kicks off this week when some of the top EA Sports FIFA players in North America, including Sporting Kansas City's own Alekzandur, gather in Philadelphia for League Series One presented by PlayStation. If you're new to the eMLS or competitive gaming scenes, or you just want the latest information on how to watch and attend the event, we've got you covered.

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