"This Week in Sporting," presented by The Smile Generation, is a weekly series that highlights the biggest storylines and news updates from Sporting Kansas City. To visit the series archive, click here.
1. Going to Disney World
Major League Soccer announced last week the league’s plan to resume the 2020 season with all 26 MLS clubs competing in the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida beginning July 8. Played without fans in attendance, the competition will provide a compelling way for MLS to continue a season that has been suspended since March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Group stage matches will count in the MLS regular season standings and the tournament winner will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
Clubs will begin arriving in Orlando as early as June 24 for preseason training. Teams such as Sporting Kansas City that can conduct full-team training in their markets pursuant to the league’s medical and testing protocols must arrive no later than seven days before their first match.
2. Familiar Foes
Sporting Kansas City learned last Thursday their three group stage opponents for the historic MLS is Back Tournament, joining Group D alongside fellow Western Conference clubs Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United FC. Sporting’s three group stage matches will count toward the 2020 MLS regular season standings, with a full tournament schedule—including match dates and broadcast details—to be announced in the coming days.
The MLS is Back Tournament draw placed all 26 clubs into six separate groups. Groups A, C and E consist of the 14 Eastern Conference clubs—six teams in Group A and four each in Groups C and E—while Groups B, D and F each consist of four Western Conference teams. Nashville SC has moved to the Eastern Conference for the remainder of the 2020 campaign. The top two finishers in each group and the four best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout rounds, with a single-elimination bracket from the Round of 16 onward. Matches tied at the end of regulation in the knockout phase will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout. Click here for the MLS is Back Tournament competition guidelines.
3. The Essential Guide
As mentioned above, the return of MLS is only a few weeks away. For the first time since play was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, MLS teams will take to the field in official competition beginning July 8 for an unprecedented tournament in Disney World.
We've already touched on a few details in this space, but the novelty of such a unique tournament might raise some questions. How exactly will it work? What does it mean for the 2020 season? For everything you need to know about the competition, take a look at our essential MLS is Back Tournament guide.
- July 8 - Aug. 11
- 54 matches (39 group stage; 15 knockout round)
- 26 matchdays
- Format: Group Stage, Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Championship
- Minimum Matches: Three per club
- Maximum Matches: Seven per finalist
- June 24: Teams begin arriving in Florida
- July 8: MLS is Back Tournament group stage begins
- July 25-28: Round of 16 begins
- July 30- Aug. 1: Tournament Quarterfinals
- August 5-6: Tournament Semifinals
- August 11: MLS is Back Tournament Final
4. Players and Coaches React
Not too surprisingly, Sporting Kansas City coaches and players have shown palpable excitement in response to the momentous news that competitive matches are just around the corner. Access the links below to hear more from the club's leaders.
- Manager Peter Vermes at Children's Mercy Park (watch)
- Assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin on The Nutmeg Podcast (listen)
- Captain Matt Besler on Sports Radio 810 WHB (listen)
5. Out for the Season
Sporting midfielder Felipe Gutierrez has undergone successful surgery to repair a cartilage defect in his knee and will be sidelined for seven to nine months, the club announced last week. A native of Quintero, Chile, Gutierrez has recorded 19 goals and nine assists in 63 appearances across all competitions since joining Sporting Kansas City in February 2018. The 29-year-old led the team with 12 goals last season.
6. Honorary ESPYS
Sports Radio 810 WHB, the official radio partner of Sporting, announced earlier this month that it has partnered with ESPN to award Honorary ESPYS for sports figures in the Kansas City community and its surrounding areas. The end result is a fan voting ballot that includes 16 different categories and heavy representation from Sporting Kansas City. Supporters can cast their votes until this Tuesday, June 16, by clicking here or by using the hashtag #810ESPYS plus the individual's name and award on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
So which members of Sporting Kansas City are on the ballot? Check out the list below.
Humanitarian Hometown Hero Award
Captain and defender Matt Besler
Champions Leadership Award
Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes
Can’t Stop Watching Play/Moment
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber's goal vs. Portland from Sept. 7, 2019 (watch)
Kansas City Fan of The Year
Tim Goebel (KC Cauldron)
Kansas Male High School Athlete of the Year
Grant Calvert (former Sporting KC Academy player)
Jony Munoz (former Sporting KC Academy player)