For the first time in the 25-year history of Major League Soccer, the month of February will mark the start of regular season play. On Feb. 29, clubs across the United States and Canada will step between the white lines with hopes of collecting three points to begin 2020.
A delectable opening day of MLS action will see Sporting Kansas City visit Vancouver Whitecaps FC at 9:30 p.m. CT, giving supporters their first real look at Manager Peter Vermes’ side since last October.
As the anticipated date approaches, SportingKC.com is rolling out a 28-day countdown to first kick, offering a comprehensive preview of the season ahead. From key storylines and positional breakdowns to new fan initiatives and perks at Children’s Mercy Park, our Countdown to Kickoff series highlights the many reasons to be pumped for Sporting’s 2020 campaign. To visit the series homepage as it expands, head to SportingKC.com/countdown.
Sporting Kansas City fans will be treated to non-stop action from opening day on Feb. 29 to Decision Day on Oct. 4.
In a near-unprecedented scheduling quirk, Manager Peter Vermes’ men will play MLS matches on 32 consecutive weekends, sprinkling in two midweek fixtures and—fingers crossed—a successful Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run to boot. If all goes to plan, a return to the MLS Cup Playoffs will then follow during the latter half of October and into early November.
But that’s not even counting the numerous international competitions slated to take place over the course of 2020. Several Sporting players will almost certainly represent their countries in major tournaments throughout the world, and with that in mind, we should mark our calendars with each of the events detailed below.
March 23-31: FIFA international window
Multiple Sporting players could feature in the all-important UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying Playoffs during the March FIFA window. Scotland and Israel will go head-to-head on March 26 in the Path C semifinals—a showdown that could feature winger Johnny Russell against midfielder Gadi Kinda. The winner will advance to the Path C final on March 31 against either Norway or Serbia, with the victor advancing to UEFA Euro 2020 this summer.
In the Path A semifinals, Botond Barath is likely to join Hungary for a matchup against Bulgaria on March 26. A triumph would put the Magyars in the final on March 31 versus either Iceland or Romania, with the winner punching their UEFA Euro 2020 ticket.
Sporting will play through the March international window, hosting rivals Real Salt Lake on March 28 at Children’s Mercy Park.
June 1-9: FIFA international window
This particular window will be highlighted by the Concacaf Nations League Final Championship, which will see the United States, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica battle it out for the title. If Sporting striker Alan Pulido enjoys a strong start to 2020, he just might earn himself a place on Mexico’s roster.
Sporting will play through the June international window, hosting Orlando City SC on June 6.
June 12 – July 12: Copa America
South America’s premier international tournament will unfold in both Argentina and Colombia, featuring 12 teams from the CONMEBOL region. Sporting midfielder Felipe Gutierrez joined Chile as recently as last September and could get the call this time around if he continues to shine at the MLS level.
June 12 – July 12: Euro 2020
Europe’s marquee international tournament will take place in 12 different host cities across 12 different countries. Russell (Scotland), Barath (Hungary) and Kinda (Israel) all have dreams of participating, but they must emerge from the Qualifying Playoffs in March and keep earning call-ups to their respective teams.
June 20 – July 5: Concacaf U-20 Championship
Sporting midfielder Gianluca Busio and Sporting KC II goalkeeper John Pulskamp trained with the USA U-20s last month and will hope to ultimately earn roster spots for the Concacaf U-20 Championship this summer in Honduras. Led by newly appointed head coach Anthony Hudson, the USA U-20s will face Costa Rica, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis in a challenging group, with the top three finishers advancing to the Round of 16.
July 22 – Aug. 8: Olympic Football Tournament
The 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan will feature a 16-team men’s soccer tournament. Squads will consist primarily of U-23 players, and although it’s unclear if any Sporting players would participate, the date should be saved just in case.
Aug. 31 – Sept. 8: FIFA international window
National teams can call up their full teams to play as many as two matches during this period, which will mark the start of Concacaf qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Sporting will play during this window, visiting the Chicago Fire on Sept. 5 at Soldier Field.
Oct. 5-13: FIFA international window
This FIFA window falls between the end of the MLS regular season on Oct. 4 and the start of the MLS Cup Playoffs, which will probably commence the weekend of Oct. 17-18.
Nov. 9-17: FIFA international window
This window officially begins two days after 2020 MLS Cup, which is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7.